2014-06-02

Copper vs Silver Standard in Qīng China

NOT a government official
I am currently reading an interesting French book titled Bâtisseurs d'empires, Russie, Chine et Inde à la croisée des mondes, XVe-XIXe siècle, that compares the way the three major Eurasian empires of the modern age: Mughal, Russian, Qīng, were created and run.

With regards to the way the Qīng empire managed the problems related with the (bi)metallic currency standard that had plagued the Míng, the author explains that, basically, the Qīng had privatised the management of the silver currency but kept as a public monopoly the minting and issuing of the copper currency.

Hence the influx of the various New World silver dollars (see my earlier blog entry) under the Qīng; this also explains why such a bewildering array of different coins were allowed to circulate: they were mostly used amongst merchants and traders, who were responsible to each other for the value attached to these coins.

Another interesting fact from the book is that copper strings ended up being the backbone of an integrated, centralised, should we say public, internal market, whereas the silver dollars ended up being used in various regional trading centres whose main trading partners were overseas.

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