A study on Local government debt in modern China

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1 A study on Local government debt in modern China Jinhua Ma WEHC Chinese Public Finance Session Introduction Modern local government debt in China began in the late Qing dynasty, and developed rapidly through Nanjing provisional government, the Beiyang government and the Nanjing national government, and was banned in the late national government period. The ups and downs of the development history of modern local government debt in China for hundreds of years was closely related to the collapse of the feudal-centralized dominance in the period of Republic of China, the social context of internal and external problems, historical changes in the fiscal and financial area, and the evolution of the relationship between Central and local governments. The whole process of the development of modern local government debt, including the germination, overflow, regulated development, and ban, was subordinated to the political and economic demands of government, the degree on how much the central government approved and restricted on local government debt, and was also influenced by the power structure decided by the power game of property rights, administrative rights and obligations between central and local governments. The management of local government debt in China evolved from disorganized to regulated, from microcosmic to macroscopic, which was associated with the gradually mature and stable political and economic situation in China. Local government debt refers to the modern China s all local governments raise internal bonds openly for the purpose to meet the local public finance and social undertakings need, including local government issuing bonds, treasury bills to ticket form of debt, including debt contract, contract and other forms. Local government debt in modern China generated from the declined centralization in the late Qing Dynasty( ), active issanced in Nanjing 1

2 Provisional Government ( ),flooded in the political division of the period of Beiyang government( ), developed in Nanking decade ( ), restricted and banned in Late Nanjing normal government( ). In previous study, scholars are more concerned about the financial relationship between central and local governments, or the central government debt, and the local government debt less attention. For Chinese historians, public debts throughout this period are mainly seen as symptoms of the dysfunctional political and fiscal arrangements, with little redeeming features. Although these debates have yielded significant discoveries in terms of archival and quantitative sources, this Marxist, normative and state-centered perspective limits the scope of discussion on the topic. the systematic study of the overall situation is very rare. The data of this paper mostly comes from archival records and historical materials, with fewer amount of local chronicles and financial records. In this research, the following problems will be involved: How much debts the modern China local governments actually borrowed? What is reason and source structure about the formation of these debts? What is application about debts? What influence is Debts on the economic development? I The cause of modern local government in China Affecting by many factors, the cause of the emergence and development of modern local government debt in China was very complicated, which can be concluded into the following aspects: 1. The gradual collapse of the centralized fiscal system The fiscal system in Early Qing was the peak in the history of Chinese feudal finance system development. Compatible with the feudal autocratic political rule, the Qing Government established a central financial system of highly centralized, and controlled strictly on the financial process of local governments revenue and expenditure. First of all, on the financial management organization, the Qing Government set up financial institutions, and Provincial Administration 2

3 Commission is set up in every provinces responsible for managing financial matters of the province. Secondly, in the financial management system, The government revenue coordination system was established to control and distribute national financial resource. Remittance meant the payment of local government to higher levels of government; association revenue meant financial transfer between local governments of parallel levels. The orders of Remittance and association revenue were all given by central governments. Audit system is a kind of financial statement system. At the end of the fiscal year, financial drafts were made by every country and province, and drafts were summarized and reported to the Ministry of Revenue after verifying by Provincial Administration Commission. However, with the outbreak of 1840 Opium War, western power successfully broke the gate of China, and the dominance of Qing Dynasty transferred from prosperity to decline. Coupled with the outbreak of the movement of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the highly centralized financial system in China has undergone profound changes. First of all, because of the war, The government revenue coordination system and audit system were greatly affected and failed to operate normally. In order to raise funds for defense, local governments intercepted not only the obligated association revenue, but also the association revenue in transit of other provinces. The authority and stability of Qing Central Government has been largely diminished. Secondly, under the hit of the movement of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the amount of administrative and military defense organizations and personnel had been largely increased in order for defense, and the administrative and military expenditure expanded as well. The Qing Government was forced to agree to the fund-raising of local governments, which definitely enhance the independence of local finance. Local government not only began to collect transit tax(likin), but also initiated local government debt even earlier than Qing central government. As a result, fiscal power was gradually out of central government s control, and Qing government also failed to perform its functions due to the empty Treasury. The power of the government began to transfer from central government to local government and local inspector thus began to have more political and military power, which had provided the powerful safeguard for the expansion of its property rights. The highly centralized financial system in China began to disintegrate with the decline of central authority. 2. The formation and deepening of modern financial crisis 3

4 In the late Qing Dynasty, local finance was involved into serious crisis.failing to make the ends meet, local government was forced to issue debts. The reason contributing to this situation can be included as follows: First, the large number of indemnity by Qing government. In order to pay huge indemnities, ceding territory and rebuilding the country after the war, the central government began to levy heavily on local government. For example, in addition to Boxer indemnity as much as 4.5 million taels of silver, there was still Boxer local compensation with the total amount of million taels 1. Among these indemnities, except for million taels divided into the overall indemnity, the actual number of the indemnity shared by local government was still as much as more than million taels. The huge indemnity quickly ran out of local financial resources, and local government must raise funds to meet the immediate needs. Secondly, local government fiscal revenue had shrunk. The main component of local government revenue was tax revenue and the level of tax revenue was closely related to the level of local economic development. At the end of Qing Dynasty, provinces hit by the war were involved into economic stagnation, plant shut down and local government tax revenue had shrunk severely, leading to the widening fiscal gap. According to Provincial Description of Finance written by Liu Jinzao, in Guang Xu year 34,local government had the annual revenue of hundred million taels, the annual expenditure of 2.37 hundred million taels,and the annual deficit of 2.2 million taels 2, thus it was clear that the local government had huge fiscal gap. Third, the Westernization Movement needs huge financial support. The major advocates of Westernization Movement including the development of modern military industry, establish of military school, coal mining administration and promote modern light industry,needed huge capital support. As the major supporter of the Movement, local government needed to raise fund in short time by borrowing debt, so as to support these industries. Fourth, the New Deal carried out by Qing Dynasty at the beginning of the twentieth century. Under the heavy pressure from both internal and foreign invasion, the Qing government began to implement the New Deal,which requires local government to pay troops, train new military recruits, develop business and promote industry using their self-raising fund. Under that circumstances, in addition to relying on heavy taxes and levies, local government 1 Zhou Yu-min: fiscal and social change in late Qing dynasty, Shanghai people's publishing house, 2000, p Liu Jin-zao: the archives of the Qing dynasty, vol 68, Beijing: the commercial press, 1936,

5 began to issue local debts. 3. The development of modern capitalism in China With the outbreak of the Opium War, western power successfully broke the gate of China, along with the heavy hit of western capitalism ideology and foreign capital, which had great impact on Chinese natural economy. After that, natural economy in China began to disintegrate quickly. After the Opium War, China was forced to open ports in coastal provinces. However, China was still in the stage of capitalis mat that period, and the lack of right to speak in foreign trade made China endure great shock by western capitalism in the process of opening up. Lack of autonomy seriously inhibited the development of Chinese economy. In the late 1840s, foreign enterprises appeared in China successively. In 1860s,some internal compradors, merchants and landlords required to invest by setting up factories and other economic entities. The emergence of modern capitalism had aroused high capital concentration, which contributed a lot to the promotion of industries. For example, it was less than one month when Shanghai Bureau of Weaving published the news of IPO in newspaper until the Bureau raised three hundred thousand taels, and the participators were every active 3.Founded in 1872, Chinese Merchants Steamship Company raised business stocks of eleven hundred thousand taels,but in 1873, it had successfully raised eighteen hundred thousand taels,and in 1881 increased into one million 4. Most of the modern enterprises started locally and won the support of local government to the largest degree. The emergence of modern capitalism and establishment of modern enterprises significantly enhanced the strength of local economy, which led to the heavy reliance of central government on local government. The accumulation of capital and the enhanced financial power implied that the political power of local government was not controlled strictly by central government, thus it was very difficult for central government to constrain debt issuing behavior of local government. 4. The emergence and development of modern banking industry in China 3 "declaration", Guangxu six years on October Duan Ben-luo: "the emergence of Chinese capitalist and the early bourgeois", Suzhou university press, 1996, p

6 In the late Qing Dynasty, the local government had the ability to issue debts, which was closely related to the emergence and development of banking industry and the necessary technological conditions for debts issuing. Generally speaking, modern banking system was a kind of product of the development of capitalism mode of production. In the late Qing Dynasty, the emergence of modern capitalism in China provided conditions for the development of banking industry. After the Sino-Japanese War, the output of foreign capital flooded into China. With the rapid expansion of Chinese industrial and mining enterprises, the number and scope of business trading, it became much more urgent for national financial institutions to make the service by providing funds and foreign exchanges. Founded in 1897, Chinese Imperial Bank was the start of the modern banking industry. In 1911 the basis of modern banking industry had been established. According to Chinese Local Banking History, from the period of Xianfeng to Jiawu, the number of official banks were only 12, and from Jiawu to Gengzi, there were another 8 banks established. While from Gengzi War to the collapse of Qing Dynasty, there were another 19 banks established. It was clear that banking industry had a rapid development. The modern bank in China was not developed from traditional financial capital like money exchange shop, old bank,it was established after the development of new industry capital. In the local area, the local banks were developed from official funded banks, and had become an important part in Chinese modern banking system. It also served an important role in local government financing institutions and maintaining provincial finance in the late Qing Dynasty. The fiscal borrowing behavior also contributed to the tendency of borrowing behavior of local government and exacerbated the market segmentation and the power of local inspectors. II The development of local government debt in modern China Modern China's local government debt emerge in the late Qing dynasty when central centralization gradually collapse, flood in the Bei Yang government period when political division arise, be specified in the early Nanjing national government, be restricted during the Anti-Japanese War and be completely banned during civil war. The chra The characteristics of development of the local government bonds is reflected in the ups and downs of its issuance size. 6

7 1. The late Qing dynasty: first insurance of local government debt and disorderly management During the late Qing dynasty, when Boxer indemnity occur and the industrial boom rise, in order to apportion huge debt and encourage local governments to support the "New Deal", central government starts to allow local government offering internal bonds in public. In March 1905, the Zhili province governor Yuan Shi-kai is badly in need of funding due to military expansion, has issued 4.8 million local government bonds with the central government approval, which has become the first local government debt in the history. However, Chinese citizen have no ability to buy these bonds, finally most bonds are purchased by the bank of yokohama, Japan, local government bonds has turned into local foreign debt. During the late Qing dynasty local government has issued 11 internal debt, amounted to yuan. The provinces which have issued bonds in late Qing dynasty are Hebei, Shanghai, Hunan, Guangdong, Hubei and Anhui provinces, each bond line is 3 million yuan on average, annual interest rates is seven or eight per cent or so, the average distribution period is six years, debt financing source is government officials, local consortium and foreign financial institutions, collateral are local tax revenue, local government financial assets, and officer battalion enterprise surplus. Bond issuance channels are: folk raise, foreign capital bank loan, the internal bank loan, commercial bureau issuance. As shown in figure 1, during the late Qing dynasty, internal debt capital mainly comes from foreign Banks loan (68.77% of total issuance), followed by folk raise and internal bank loans (each takes up 11.15% of total issuance), the last one is forced commercial bureau issuance (8.92% of total issuance). In general. 7

8 Figure 1: pie chart of local internal capital sources from 1905 to 1911 in late Qing dynasty The internal bonds issued in this period has the following characteristics: first, the internal bonds of local government in the late Qing dynasty are mostly the replica of "Yuan Shi-kai" bond (i.e., Zhili province government bonds). As the first issued local government bond ever, Zhili province government bonds has the model significance at that time and with no doubt becomes the example of other internal bonds, other provinces have issued their internal bonds in reference to zhili bond; Second, the debt income is mainly used for military and political affairs and municipal construction. During late Qing period, the use of local government debt has expanded from pure munitions to maintain market, industrial development and administrative costs. In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, a large number of local government debt emerge because the implement of the New Deal by Qing government, which has intensified the conflicts between local finance and the military training and the establishment of industries; Third, the credit of internal bond is not high, bond issuance has achieved little. The war during the late Qing period has seriously disturbed the normal development of social economy, local citizens have no spare money to buy government bonds, the local government debt issuance has little effect and can barely raise enough revenue. Local government debt management is a confusion in late Qing dynasty with no special debt issuance institutions nor specialized debt management institutions. This situation has a close 8

9 relationship with the social, political, and economic conditions at that time.on the issue of bond, On the surface, the ministry of finance in Qing government has the right to review the local government debt, but in fact, it is only a form, local governments have issued lots of bonds without the approval the branch of the ministry of finance provincial. In the late Qing dynasty, in order to restore the central finance, Qing government has tried to clear up local government accounts for several times, all ended in failure. The Qing court has no ability nor effective means to prevent the decline of central authority and local government debt mess. Table 1 Statistics of the local internal debt in late Qing dynasty sequence debtor year bond amount rate distribution period 1 Zhili Shanghai unknown 3 Shanghai Hubei Hunan Shanghai Anhui Zhili unknown 9 Zhili Guangdong Hunan Source: Wan Bi-xuan: "the local government debt", daito publishing house, 1948 edition; Xiao-hui Zhang editor: "fiscal policy change during the period of the republic of China guangdong", economic science press, Xiao-hui zhang: "the history of modern local government of guangdong ( )", jinan university journal(philosophy and social science edition), 1992, 02; Local Chronicles and Chronicles compilation committee of guangdong province: "The local Chronicles of guangdong province", guangdong people's publishing house, Chen Ke-jian, Ren-chuan Lin editor: "the financial history of fujian", xiamen university, 1989; Pan Guo-qi: "studies of modern Chinese local government debt, take jiangsu, zhejiang and Shanghai as 9

10 example", Zhejiang university press, 2009; Jiangsu province finance editor office: "jiangsu financial history books" the second series of the second volume, local press, 1999; Chorography editing committee of jiangsu province editor: "Jiangsu province, a fiscal" (below), jiangsu ancient books publishing house, 1996; Pu-sen Jin: "Zhejiang general history, volume of the republic of China, up", Zhejiang people's publishing house, 2005; Jia Shiyi compilation: "The financial history of the republic of China," the commercial press, 1917; The second historical archives of China :" the Chinese history record data collection" (3) finance, jiangsu ancient books publishing house, "China financial history data compilation" 9-12 series, China's financial economic publishing house, Nanjing provisional government : local government bond active issuance and management suppression During Wuchang uprising, several provinces have announced "independence", although Nanjing provisional authority has set up, the "independent" way used by local governments have revealed the stirring of local independent consciousness. On January 1, 1912, Nanjing Provisional Government has formed. But the new bourgeois revolutionary regime was plagued by serious financial crisis in the beginning. The capital Nanjing has no capital storage, local governments at all levels has submitted nothing, they not only have no financial support to the central government, but also ask for funding duties from central government, the custom, salt tax and other tax revenue have been used for the collateral of central government debt in the beginning of late Qing dynasty. Nanjing provisional government has no revenue, but has consumed a lot, only the army reimbursement of need is several times more than before. Faced with financial distress, the contradiction between the central and local government is characterized by competition for financial sources, in order to alleviate the crisis, many provinces have issued bonds in the name of local district (see chart 2). Some local government even ues the banner of "republic of China", deliberately make local government debt look like the central government debt without being limited by the central authority, which reflects the disorder of local government debt issuance. Nanjing provisional government period is an unprecedented active period in the history of 10

11 local bonds issuance, on the one hand, the provincial and local has financial crisis during the war and need to survive relying on borrowed money, on the other hand, the issuance of local government bonds also provide the consolidation of new bourgeois revolutionary regime with large amount of money. During Nanjing Provisional Government period, the local government has issued 10 internal bonds, amounted to yuan, the bonds offering provinces include Hubei, Fujian, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai, the annual average interest rate is around 5 to 7 per cent, the distribution period of local bonds are 6.34 years on average, the main collateral are local tax revenue and officer enterprise surplus, debt capital mainly comes from the folk financing, the reason for this is that in view of the shortcomings of the Qing government borrowing, Chinese citizen has seen foreign debt as "poisoned wine", as long as the government ask for foreign loan, they instinctively resisted and opposed. The internal debt issued by local governments at this stage has the following characteristics: first, internal debt is mainly used to raise military expenses. During Nanjing Provisional Government period, the military government issued bonds to consolidate the revolutionary regime, as an important fiscal policy measures, local government debt has provided the material guarantee to ease financial crisis and protect the victory of the revolution; Second, the internal debt issuance mostly failed to achieve their goals. The ratio of the actual debt issuance size and planned debt issuance size in Nanjing Provisional Government is the lowest compared with other periods in modern China, only 40%. The reason for this situation are various: one is that in the late Nanjing Provisional Government, central government has made the policy of stop local bond issuance. The second reason is that the capitalist economic development during the period of Nanjing interim government is not sufficient, the modern financial institutions and financial market is still underdeveloped, citizens life are poor, the debtor can only rely on the merchants to raise a small amount of funds, the local government bonds issuance is restricted by the economic conditions. The third reason is that the government bond credit has not yet been established. The control range of provincial revolutionary regime is extremely limited, the common recognition of the new revolutionary regime is not obtained, thus people question its solvency. To rectify the local government debt chaos, Sun Yat-sen ordered many times that the 11

12 provincial military government stopped issuing local government bonds, but with little effect. On March 17, 1912, Sun Yat-sen issued <unified financial restrains to local government bonds>, specifically asks all provinces for the purpose of fiscal unification, the bond issuance should stop according to the ministry of finance. Since Shanghai ignores central orders and still published the issuance advertisement of government bonds, Sun Yat-sen once again issued the Order Shanghai military viceroy to stop issuing local bonds ", it is pointed out that "in order to avoid divergence, since the central Treasury tickets have been issued, Shanghai bond issuance shall immediately stop. 5 " Since then, Nanjing interim government has formulated and promulgated the "government bonds perform general rules" article 14 and "Treasury client provincial debt issuance method" article 12, specify the working procedures of bonds management institutions, standardize the actual bonds issuance. Due to the limitation and the repression of the interim government and government bond credit has not yet been established, the results of most of the local government debts issuance is far from target and is of little help to ease financial crisis. Nanjing Provisional Government attempts to suppress provincial government bond issuance in order to raise fundraising ability of the central government, but eventually backfire, ultimately unable to save the poor fiscal condition and precarious revolutionary regime, the Nanjing temporary regime eventually came to an end. Table 2 Local bonds issued during Nanjing Provisional Government sequence province year planned real rate distribution issuance issuance period amount amount 1 Hubei Shanghai unknown Zhejiang Zhejiang unknown Jiangxi unknown unknown 6 Fujian Liu Xiao-quan: a preliminary study of the military supplies bonds in the first year of modern China, journal of Southwest University (humanities and social science edition), in

13 7 Shanghai unknown Guangdong Jiangsu unknown Shanxi unknown 6 3 Source: the same as table 1 3. Beiyang government period: local government bonds are out of control and the management failure On March 10, 1912 Yuan Shi-kai became provisional President, China entered the period of reign of the Beiyang warlords. At the beginning of the reign, because of Yuan Shi-kai s powerful forces, local power is temporarily suppressed and there's not much chance to perform their wills. After the death of Yuan Shi-kai, Beiyang group divided with no strong central regime, the local authority is becoming more and more independent,, all the provinces start to issue local government debt. Although the ministry of finance has formulated several regulations to strictly limit excessive local debts. But under that political situation with little central authority, there are no certain rules for bonds issuance procedures throughout the Beiyang period, all local government issue large amount of bonds without following the central government rules. During the period of Beiyang government, the local government has issued 62 internal bonds, amounted to yuan, the local government which have issued bonds include Hubei, Sichuan, Anhui, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Tianjin, Hunan, Gansu and Hebei, the average annual interest rate is 8.36 per cent, the distribution period of bonds is 4.84 years on average, the main collateral are local tax revenue, local government financial assets, officer enterprise surplus income and the income of mineral resources, the situation that local government bonds failed to be paid back is common in Beiyang government period, according to statistics, during Beiyang period, among 29 bonds which have imbursement records, only 12 have been really paid off. 13

14 In this period, the local government debt has following characteristics: First, in terms of the debt composition, in addition to borrowing external debt from foreign countries, the northern warlords also issued a number of public bonds and military votes to raise funds. According to statistics, from 1911 to the late November of 1912, all of the provinces borrowed more than 1210 liang,actual received more than 1100 liang 6. Second, in the terms of raising process, a large number of local governments signed the debt contracts before the central government admitting them. Some local governments even kept the borrowing from the central government, which led to local government debt out of control. The local foreign debt during Beiyang Government sees table 3.Third, in terms of the debt purposes, the local debt issued by the Chinese provinces during this period is mainly used for military and civilian non-productive expenditure. During Beiyang Government, the internal debt issued by local governments is mainly used for military and administrative cost, repaying the debt before, making up for the finance budget deficits, disaster relief and industrial construction. Nearly half of the debt during Beiyang Governmentis used to make up for the military expenditure, which is closely related to the special times background. Fourth, in terms of the characteristics of debt, local government debt built close ties with local banks. Under the control of local warlords, local banks issued debt and acted for military expenditure, acting as the financial instruments of the warlords regime. The wide development of the banks also provides local government debt issue organization condition, and the spread of local government debt, in turn, led to the development of the banking sector whose purpose is speculation. Fifth, debt is mainly raised by forced apportion. During Beiyang Government, the local governments apportion patterns emerged in an endless streaming the internal debt issuance. The local governments imposed the debt burden on the counties and villages, making the local financial burden very heavy. During Beiyang government period, central government has set up the national debt management agency and a bond fund, all the local government have set up a national Treasury bureau to set about organizing local government debt confusion. But because that bond funds are often in the hands of imperialist powers, these measures enhance the confidence of the Banks to 66 Jiang Hong-ye editor: the history of China's local bank, hunan press, 1991, p

Gao Peiyong* * Gao Peiyong, Professor, Renmin University, Beijing, China. E-mail: gaopy@263.net.

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