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Tuesday Afternoon Talk - Economic Openness, Industrial Development, & Income Distribution in China, 1860-1936

A talk by SE YAN (Doctoral Candidate, Economics)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
11377 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Se Yan's talk estimates nominal wage trends in fifty Chinese cities from 1860 to 1936 using newly constructed wage data of the Chinese Maritime Customs' employees. He also constructs cost of living indices on the basis of raw prices and expenditure weights developed from customs trade statistics and surveys. The resulting nominal wage and cost off living indices make it possible to estimate real income trends for different income groups of people during a key period of transition in China. His key finding is that real wages declined in the nineteenth century, and began to grow rapidly from the 1920s.

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Se Yan (B.A. International Economics, Peking University; M.A. Chinese Economic History, Peking University) came to UCLA in 2002, and is now a doctoral candidate in the Department of Economics. Among his research interests are economic development, international economics, and economic history. He is interested in particular in the effect of increased international trade on the competitiveness of China’s preexisting industries and on its path of industrial development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For this project, he has a treasure trove of materials: the excellent records of the Maritime Customs, which include (among many other things) information on wages, prices, and living standards. Every ten years, the British customs officers who ran the Chinese Maritime Customs published summaries of their reports, but the original data have been preserved in an archive in Nanjing. The archive also includes other materials, such as the customs service’s own employment records. These include wages paid to employees ranging from unskilled coolies to highly educated engineers. Surprisingly, before Mr. Yan began to exploit this rich material, no one had made much use of any it.

Mr. Yan's pioneering work is making an important contribution to our knowledge of the Chinese economy during this important period. 



310 825-8683

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies

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