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LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCES IN REPUBLICAN CHINA by Jerome Ch'en " ... if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic." Tom Rawski's discussion paper, "China's Republican Economy, an introduction," was published by the Joint Centre on Modern East Asia in 1978 when I was in Kyoto. Upon my return to Toronto, I read it with admiration and astonishment, but decided against writing a reply to his criticism of the historians (including myself) cited in his paper, for several reasons. It is only a discussion paper, offering Tom's first thoughts on the subject in spite of his firm tone which is, as far as I know, his usual style. As his research goes on, he may very well change his mind. My own views formed and written down some twenty years ago have certainly undergone revisions in the light of the progress in socio-economic history that has been made since then, and of Tom's paper which goes a long way to putting local government finances and military expenses in a more reasonable context. It would be obscurantist of me if I refused to change. My own habit has been going from one project of research to the next in some thirty years now. It has generated a reluctance to be drawn into any controversy or debate which inevitably interrupts its evolution. It was a momentary indiscretion on my part when I remarked on Lloyd Eastman's presentation at Taibei in 1983, saying that Tom's paper was particularly weak on local government finance. Lloyd seized upon it and discussed with our editor, Keith Schoppa, who subsequently wrote and persuaded me to elaborate on what I had said. What I am doing here is no more than carry out their command. It does not, however, represent a break in my habit. I 'have not done any fresh research for writing this reply. As soon as I finish these few pages, I will returq to my mountain peasants. I have neither enough interest nor enough pugnacity in producing another rejoinder. The warlord period was the period in which I was born and grew up. To this day many memories of my boyhood remain fresh--the looting, including the floor boards of my home dug up for fuel by the defeated soldiers in 1920 before my birth, the deaths I saw in the war of 1932, my elder sister's hiding between the walls of our house and the nex~ in order to escape gang rape by warring soldiers, my father and myself having been struck unconscious by rifle butts. But I am not going to talk about warlordism in general, for Tom's references to warfare and war economy are too sketchy for anyone to sink his teeth in. I shall therefore concentrate on Tom's local financial statistics. 42 County Government Finances A general observation to begin with--! am not clear why Tom puts so much emphasis on outlay rather than on revenue. Surely it was revenue that taxpayers felt and understood. If revenue did not exceed outlay, soldiering, especially as far as the officers were concerned, would not have been a lucrative business and the officers would not have been able to live as lavishly as they did. On p. 24 of his paper, Tom decidedly prefers "quantitative indicators" to "literary accounts"; this is of course one of the economist's hallmarks. But he goes on to remind us that "information on local finances is not easy to obtain." Paucity may be remedied; unreliability is another matter. All of us who use Chinese statistics know only too well the risk we run. Their imprecision makes the choice between them and "literary accounts" in some cases a matter of personal predilection. If statistics appear to be more scientific, let us have them just for fun. Tom's county government finance figures come chiefly from C.M. Chang and Chang Sen whose are budgetary. Before 1930 (in some cases before 1935) no county budgets are available; after that, they are as reliable as the Delphic oracle. Take the 1935 budget revenues for...


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