An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xu fuguo ce 續富國策

Dec 12, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Xu fuguo ce 續富國策 "Continued strategies to bring welfare to the state" is a book on economic policy written by the late Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Chen Chi 陳熾 (d. 1900). It was published in 1896.

The title is derived from the title of the book Fuguoce 富國策 "Strategies for Enriching the Country" that was published in 1881 by Wang Fengzao 汪鳳藻 (1851-1918) as a partial translation of the Manual of Political Economy (1874) by the English economist Henry Fawcett (1833-1884). It was also influenced by Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (Chinese title Guofulun 國富論).

Chen Chi, original name Chen Yao 陳瑶, courtesy name Ciliang 次亮, style Yaolinguan Zhu 瑶林館主 or Tongzhengzhai Sheng 通正齋生, hailed from Ruijin 瑞金, Jiangji, and was a banner general (janggin 章京 of the State Council (junjichu 軍機處), later a director in the Ministry of Revenue (hubu langzhong 戶部郎中), then in that of Justice (xingbu langzhong 刑部郎中).

He was very interested in Western science and the economic and political system of Western states and therefore traveled to Hong Kong and Macao, where he interviewed many persons that had made experience overseas. In 1895 he became a member of the Self-Strengthening Society (qiangxuehui 强學會), where he functioned as dispatcher (tidiao 提調). He has also authored the book Yongshu 庸書, in which he advocated Western studies.

The book is divided into four parts and 60 chapters each of which speak about one important aspect of the national economy, from agriculture and mining to the trades and commerce. The part on agriculture (Nongmin 農民) wholly stands in the tradition of the theory of the paternalist government which has to take care for the sufficient production of fieldcrops, field irrigation, but also more commercial products like bamboo (as raw material for paper), camphor, rubber gum, tea, cotton, sugarcane, tobacco or coffee.

The part on mining (Kuangshu 礦書) includes explanations to geological prospections, the collection of ores and coal, the hauling of petrol, the production of cement, earthenware and porcelain, the processing of various metals, and the production of coins.

The part on the trades (Gongshu 工書) does not only cover the many field of industry like wood or textile processing, food production, that of machinery, but also adhorts to study the sciences, like mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, mechanics, optics, or electricity, and mentions the duty of the government to construct roads to facilitate traffic.

The fourth part (Shangshu 商書) begins with a description of political measures to support trade and commerce, and then goes on stressing the importance of railway, steamships (particularly those for the navy), telegraph, insurance, banking, a unified currency, the publication of commercial newspapers or journals, and the foundation of vocational schools.

Except concrete descriptions and practical suggestions, the author also brought forward general paradigms of economic and financial politics. Wealth, he said, is a matter to be redistributed among the whole people. Taxes therefore are not to be seen as a source of government revenue (which he considered as a "robbery by the state"), but as a source for social wealth (sheng cai zhi dao 生財之道 "a way of producing wealth [for all]"). He redefines the concept of "commerce" (shang 商) that was traditionally seen as the meanest of the "four occupations" (scholars, farmers, craftsmen, and traders) and explains that commerce is based on agriculture, mining and industry altogether, and is the one business that has the potential to redistribute the products of these three basic field of economy.

Chen Chi also brings forward the theory that the political and economical systems of the West originated in China, likewise technical sckills and material culture. Apart from this phantastic conjecture he redefines the Confucian term yi 義 "righteousness" or "benevolence towards others" as says that it is only a principle according to which each individual has the freedom to pursue wealth and autonomy. It can therefore not be discerned between "public gains" (gongli 公利) and "private profit" (sili 私利), as the Confucians had done. One of the main reasons for China's economic backwardness was that the traditional elite "esteemed moral righteousness and dispised financial profit" (gui yi jian li 貴義賤利).

These theories clearly deviate from traditional conceptions of economy and demonstrate how China's world of thought modernized in the last years of the nineteenth century.

The Xu fuguo lun was published in 1896 and can be found in the series Xizheng congshu 西政叢書 and Shixue fuqiang xinbian xuke 實學富强新編續刻.

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