Endowed with large areas of fertile soil, valuable raw materials, and a high tradition of tests and skill, China has long possessed important manufacturing industries. Till the rise of machine production a century and a half ago, her technique was identical in character with that of the West, and, in quality, not infrequently superior to it. "Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance, and lacks no product within its own borders; there is therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians"1--the oft-quoted reply in which her Government rebuffed in 1793 the British proposal for closer trade relations, if politically naïve, had more economic justification than the West supposed. It was given at a moment when the greater number of British industries were still only emerging from much the same phase of development as those of China, and when certain among them had been striving for a century to master the lessons taught by Chinese craftsmanship.


During the three generations in which the Industrial Revolution was travelling round the world, that phase survived in China with but little modification. As far as the greater part of the country is concerned, it survives to-day, though with increasing erosion. No occupational census has been taken in China. Figures,2 of doubtful reliability, are available for cer

See the Imperial Mandate of Ch'ien Lung to George III on the occasion of Lord Macartney's mission in 1793, quoted in E. Backhouse and J. O. P. Bland, Annals of the Court of Peking ( 1914), p. 326.
Occupational censuses have been taken for the provinces of Kiangsu ( 1919) and Shansi ( 1923), for Kwangtung Territory ( 1924), and for the cities of Nanking ( 1925), Tsingtao ( 1926), and Canton ( 1928). See The Chinese Labor Year Book, 1928, Vol. I, pp. 2-5, and Nankai Weekly Statistical Service, Vol. IV, No. 2, January 12, 1931.


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Land and Labour in China


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