CHAPTER II
THE RURAL FRAMEWORK

The scientific study of Chinese society is still in its infancy. Such industrialism as exists, being novel, has been frequently described; but the massive and permanent background of the traditional economy has received less attention. In spite of admirable work by Chinese and foreign scholars, many aspects of the economic organisation and social structure of China are still but partially known. Nor, even were knowledge of the normal operations of her economic system more complete than it is, would it be easy to allow for the dislocation which it has undergone during a decade of disorder.

The population of China cannot be stated with certainty. Official censuses, usually of households, not persons, have been made for a longer period, and with greater regularity, than in any other country. They have been supplemented, since 1904, by the Maritime Customs estimates, and, since 1919, by the estimates made by the Postal Authorities. In addition, there are the data collected by private inquirers, and the deductions of statisticians from the materials assembled. The minimum estimate made by a public authority in the present century is 331,200,000, which was the figure given in 1910 by the Ministry of the Interior for China proper, without Tibet and Mongolia; the maximum is 485,600,000, which was that of the Post Office census for the same area in 1926. The latest Customs estimate is between the two; it gave a figure for 1929 of 438,900,000, exclusive of Shanghai, Nanking, Tientsin and Hankow.1 It is improbable, perhaps, that the present popula

____________________
1
Figures from The China Year Book, 1929-30, pp. 1-4, and Maritime Customs Report and Abstract of Statistics, 1929, p. 250. For recent discussions, see papers before XIXe Session de l'Institut International de Statistique, 1930 ( An Estimate of the Population of China in 1929 by Warren H. Chen, China's Population Problem by Chang Heng Chen , The Chinese Census of Population since 1712 by Chungshen S. Shen); A Westerner's Effort to estimate the Population of China and its Increases by W. F. Willcox ; A Study of China's Population Statistics by C. M. Chen ( Statistical Monthly,

-23-

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