China in the World Market: Chinese Industry and International Sources of Reform in the Post-Mao Era

By Thomas G. Moore | Go to book overview

3
Tailor to the World:
China's Emergence as a
Global Power in Textiles

CHINESE TEXTILES: AN INDUSTRY WITH A DISTINGUISHED
PAST AND A BRIGHT FUTURE

There is perhaps no industry in the history of Chinese civilization as storied as the textile industry.1 For this study, however, our concern lies mainly with the industry's development in the post-Mao era and its experience with the MFA.2 Over the last two decades, textiles has served as a leading sector as China has undergone domestic commercialization and deepened its integration into the world economy, a role similar to that played in Japan and elsewhere in East Asia.3 Indeed, historians, economists, and political scientists have long recognized the critical role of textile manufacturing in the process of economic development.4

During the Mao era, the textile industry not only met the basic clothing needs of China's large, predominantly poor population, but it also served as an important source of capital for projects in other industrial sectors. Indeed, the textile industry has borne an enormous tax burden in the half century since the People's Republic of China (PRC) was

____________________
1
For general background on the history of China's textile industry, see Dangdai Zhongguo de Fangzhi Gongye (1984) and Harris (1993), Chapter 14. For a primer on the textile industry during Late Imperial China, see Feuerwerker (1995b).
2
The contemporary period is not, of course, the first in which China's textile industry has been significantly influenced by the outside world. For a detailed examination of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, see Reynolds (1975) and Hou (1965).
3
See, for example, Smitka (1998).
4
For the classic argument that the development of textile manufacturing allowed Great Britain to dominate the world economy, and in so doing spurred Britain's industrial revolution more generally, see Hobsbawn (1968). For an economist's view, see Anderson (1992), pp. 2–14. As far as political science is concerned, Kurth (1979) represents a highly influential political economy perspective on the textile industry.

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