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Mimi Zou

Within the scholarly and policy discourses on the regulation of child labour in China, the focus has been on the period of rapid industrialization since the opening up and reform of China’s economy in recent decades. However, there have been very few studies that have situated the evolution of China’s legal framework to address child labour issues in a historical context. This chapter fills this important void by examining how child labour practices were regulated in imperial China and the development of laws from the nineteenth century onwards that sought to address what was perceived by society as the worst forms of such practices. These historical insights aim to shed light on the social, economic and cultural factors that have shaped the quest to end child labour in the world’s largest industrializing economy. At the same time, the country’s rapid industrialization and urbanization over the past three decades have seen new social problems arising from mass rural-to-urban migration that create particular risks of child labour for children of rural migrant workers.