Chapter 9: The decline of regional merchant networks
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The decline of merchant networks in the late eighteenth century (Fujian), mid-nineteenth century (Huizhou) and early twentieth century (Shanxi) are discussed in this chapter. With the protracted struggle between the Zheng Chenggong's clan and the Ming loyalists on the one hand, and the Manchus on the other, many Fujian merchants left China for southeast Asian countries. Administrative decisions - the establishment of the 13 hongs in Canton in 1686 - also weakened their position. The decline of the Huizhou merchants in the early 19th century was a consequence of the State's diminishing discretionary power in granting trade monopolies. The salt trade was also affected by rising costs and falling profits. The demise of Shanxi bankers was sealed after World War I, with the emergence of the large Chinese national banks. This occurred while the need to reform the economy combined with growing competition from foreign firms established in treaty ports.

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