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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