Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese

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Brill’s Encyclopedia of China Online is based on the originally a thousand-page reference work on China with a clear focus on the modern period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 21st century. Written by the world’s top scholars, Brill’s Encyclopedia of China is the first place to look for reliable information on the history, geography, society, economy, politics, science, and culture of China.

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(1,433 words)

Author(s): Renwei, Zhao
With regard to the development, structure, and distribution of income in the PRC, it is important to differentiate between the pre-reform era (1949-78) and the period afterwards. Before 1978, incomes were low but at the same time income distribution was very even. In 1980, China's GDP per capita was only $270; China's Human Development Index, which, in addition to purchasing power, also takes into account human factors, such as life expectancy, health, access to clean water, and similar factors,…


(1,868 words)

Author(s): Wagner, Christian
1. Relations before 1947/1949 Contacts between the Indian and the Chinese cultural regions date back as far as the pre-Christian epoch. Inscriptions in northern India, records by Chinese and Indian travelers, as well as archeological finds of coins and porcelain have time and again provided evidence of this interchange. While trade in the north of the Indian subcontinent took place between local kingdoms along the Silk Road, kingdoms in the south of the subcontinent made use of the sea for their tra…


(1,071 words)

Author(s): Baogang, He
Diverse Chinese traditions contain rich sources for notions of self, individuals, individuality, and individualism. Zhuangzi (4th century BCE) for example, questioned whether the individual owed moral obligations to social institutions, such as the family and state, and advocated individual freedom from the restrictions of public obligations. Zhu Xi (1130-1200) stressed learning for the sake of one's self. The idea of individual self figured prominently in the literature of the May Fourth Moveme…


(2,178 words)

Author(s): Klenner, Wolfgang
It was a variety of very different social groups which have played a decisive role in China's industrialization since the 19th century. In the beginning, industrialization was driven largely by merchants and those social groups which had a history of engaging in textile, mining, ammunition, and porcelain production, partly with the bureaucracy's support. Chinese manufacturers operated under economic conditions shaped by a political leadership oriented towards traditional values. The founding of …

Industrial Policy

(1,138 words)

Author(s): Schüller, Margot
The strategies and goals of Chinese industrial policy have changed dramatically over the last hundred years. Since the beginning of the reforms in 1978, and especially since the beginning of the 1990s, the set of economic and political tools used have increasingly been aligned with those of other industrial nations. The first attempts to coordinate policy in mining, smelting, and the textile industry already began to appear along China's east coast and in Manchuria in the early 19th century. Because of internal and external crises, the Qing d…

Information Technology

(1,251 words)

Author(s): Morosoli, Boris
Information technology (IT) refers to the technology used in processing information (data, languages, multimedia) in electronic form. In the Asian Pacific region, Taiwan is paradigmatic for the development and use of IT. From the 1950s to the 1980s, it was mainly the government of Taiwan who introduced different IT projects. In the 1990s, these were gradually taken up by the private sector, such as the technology park founded in Xinzhu (Hsinchu) in 1973 or the PC manufacturer Acer. Government in…

Inner Mongolia

(1,406 words)

Author(s): Kaschewsky, Rudolf
Meng Hohhot 101 counties, 20 cities 23.97 million inhabitants . 1,183,000 km² 20 inhabitants per km² The Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia ( Nei Menggu zizhiqu) lies in the north and northeast of the PRC. Important cities beside Hohhot are Baotou, Wuhai, Jining, and Chifeng. Inner Mongolia ranges from SW to NE over a length of about 2500 km and a width of some 400 km. Situated at an average of 1000 m above sea level, it belongs to the northern Chinese steppe plateau. To the northeast, the Great Hinggan Mountains with …

Instructions for using the encyclopedia

(687 words)

Author(s): Leese, Daniel
1. Access to the content of the encyclopedia can be gained in three ways. Users are recommended initially to consult the systematic overview of entries at the beginning, in order to acquaint themselves with the inner structure of the work. These headwords can also be directly searched in the alphabetical text section. There is a glossary of Chinese personal names giving Chinese characters and birth and death dates, where known. Keywords within the articles indicate related encyclopedia lemmata. Bibliographies for the individual entries follow the articles. 2. Transcriptions : The o…

Insurance Sector

(1,103 words)

Author(s): Fischer, Doris | Schüller, Margot
1. People's Republic of China The new government of the People's Republic established the People's Insurance Company of China (PICC) as early as 1949. The company was responsible for all insurance business domestic and abroad. It was at first subordinated to the People's Bank of China (PBoC) and was later put under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance in 1952. After 1958, with the completion of socialist restructuring, the view took hold that insurances were obsolete. For this reason, the PICC…


(2,500 words)

Author(s): Pohl, Karl-Heinz
If by intellectuals in the broader sense one means a scientifically or artistically educated elite, then the Chinese intellectuals ( zhishifenzi) of the 20th century are descendants of the Confucian literati or scholar-officials ( wenren or shidaifu) who traditionally determined cultural and political life in China as intellectual elites. Owing to their specifically Confucian background, the pre-modern literary intellectuals developed characteristics which have persisted into modern times, and which distinguish their successors' s…

International Economic Organizations

(2,195 words)

Author(s): Oberheitmann, Andreas
China is currently a major partner in the international exchange of goods, services, and capital. In the wake of the economic upheaval resulting from two world wars, a series of international economic organizations was created to support and promote the integration of national economies. The most important of these are: the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank group, which consists of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (…

International Law

(1,999 words)

Author(s): Heuser, Robert
After a century in which China's international relations were characterized by wars and a loss of sovereignty (extraterritoriality, Treaty Ports), the PRC's foreign policy was first informed by its orientation towards the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and since the end of the 1950s to a large extent by isolation. Since the late 1970s it had to serve the goals of economic development. This implied a turn towards international (public) law as the legal system which regulates the relations bet…

International Organizations

(1,800 words)

Author(s): Leese, Daniel
The number of international organizations, including political organizations between states and non-governmental organizations (INGOs), has grown dramatically since the beginning of the second half of the 20th century. China, which otherwise pursued a foreign policy of non-integration (international relations up to 1949), was a founding member of the two most important international political organizations of the 20th century, the League of Nations and the United Nations. The League of Nations w…

International Relations up to 1949

(4,144 words)

Author(s): Kuo-Chi, Lee
1. The Period before the Opium War Throughout its history, China's relationship to the outside world was determined by two factors: its geographic situation and its cultural tradition. Geographically, China is surrounded by high mountains, deserts, and oceans. Thus nature gives it an insular character which has not been without influence on its historical development. All around the Chinese Empire there were always foreign nations which were either weaker militarily, or on a lower cultural level than t…

International Treaties

(2,945 words)

Author(s): Strupp, Michael
1. International Treaties and Sinocentric Tributary System up to the Opium Wars Over the centuries, international treaties have developed into one of the supporting legs of "Eurocentric" international law; but even within the Western world they did not always come into being on the basis of the sovereign equality of the concluding parties. Treaties between states were not unknown even in the China of the Spring and Autumn period (770 to 481 BCE). It is true, the concept of the tributary system which evolved…