This chapter highlights how economic activities were relatively unhindered in comparison to those closely monitored under imperial and communist regimes. Technological transfers were greatly facilitated by an open society at all levels, whether local workmen building truck bodies to fit imported engines in Beijing or the engineers instructed by Belgian specialists at a cloth-making industry established in distant Lanzhou even before the fall of the empire. The economy was not “stagnant” or “regressing” from 1870 to 1930, but steadily growing and thriving, even in the countryside. It particularly pays attention to the first half of the twentieth century, and a number of important changes did occur to open up the movement of goods. With the legal and institutional changes in mind, it is not surprising that the economy boomed in the first decades of the twentieth century. While movement by cart or boat in China around 1900 generally proceeded at a walking pace, a revolution in transportation in the following decades meant that people across the social spectrum could move faster, further, and cheaper than ever before.
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