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“The Shanghai Mint and U.S.–China Monetary Interactions, 1920–1933”

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Author:
Austin Dean University of Nevada, austin.dean@unlv.edu

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This article uses primary sources from China, Taiwan, and the United States to chronicle the history of the Shanghai Mint and u.s.–China monetary interactions during the 1920s and early 1930s. It focuses on the period immediately preceding the well-known Silver Purchase Act of 1934 and the Nationalist government’s decision to abandon the silver standard in favor of a managed currency, the fabi, in November 1935. The article highlights the importance of u.s. advisors, particularly mint technician Clifford Hewitt and Princeton University professor Edwin Kemmerer, in debates about whether China should adopt the gold-exchange standard or stay on the silver standard, as well as their role in the elimination of the silver tael (liang) as a unit of account. The article demonstrates the long-standing interest of the United States in Chinese currency reform and shows how, in the 1920s, this interest often manifested itself in the interactions between Chinese officials and conduits like Hewitt and Kemmerer, rather than monetary missions that the u.s. Congress approved as had been the case in the early 1900s. Finally, the article traces the goals of successive Chinese governments to exercise more control over the currency of modern China and the role of u.s. advisors in that process.

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