Tea Sales After the Collapse of the Qing Dynasty

Due to the high price of Chinese tea, and the fact that packaging, promotion and marketing tools were not in place, in 1912, China’s tea exports to the US decreased. In 1914, the National Government in an attempt to promote tea exports, decided that from November 1 there will be enacted an export tax reduction of 20% on tea. From 1 liang 2 qian every 5 centigrams to 1 liang for that amount.

In 1915, China exported 1.75 million picul tea, which converts into 106,000 tons, of which exports to Russia weighed 70,000 tons, two-thirds of the total export volume. Britain, France and the United States were more into Japanese green tea, because China used color staining on certain products of green tea due to it having a bad color. This practice made the French particularly averse, and the media outlets cried out in alarm: “Do not engage in forgeries.”

In 1916, the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce reiterated the ban, green dye should be strictly banned because green tea staining was detrimental to the reputation of Chinese tea, and negatively impacted the national tax income. This year, Shanghai open one of the earliest Chinese tea export house to get rid of the foreign firms control of China’s foreign tea trade.

World War I drastically reduced Chinese exports to Britain and the United States, Russia became the major national consumption of Chinese tea. However, in 1918 the National Government began to its war on the Communist nations, and prohibited sales of Chinese tea to Russia, the Soviets on the other hand nationalized their tea business, they also unified tea imports and domestic distribution of sales. The brick tea production plants Russian merchants set up in China were successively closed and bought off, resulting in the 1920 Chinese tea exports to Russia being only 100 tons. Chinese businessmen faced unprecedented difficulties and demanded tax reductions on tea, to reduce costs. After two years of temporary permission, the National Government Ministry of Finance determined that Chinese tea had no improvements in cultivation, harvesting, manufacturing, etc., and no longer agreed to the tea tax relief. The tea research institutes from the various production districts and various tea merchants had no choice but to work on their skills. Fortunately, in 1925 the Soviet Union restore diplomatic relations with China, and due to the implementation of the “China-Russia Eastern Railway Interim Agreement”, Hankou restored brick tea processing and acquisitions, resulting in a surge of Chinese tea exports to the Soviet Union.

In 1931, the Ministry of Industry and commerce promulgated the first tea exportation inspection decree, which made restrictions on the amount of water content ratio in tea, which is a key factor in determining the quality of tea; they also set up provisions calling for the abolition of poisonous staining agents and reduction of non – poisonous staining agents on colored tea. All export tea must possess the inspection certificate. However, the Manchurian Incident caused this decree to become ineffective in the three northeastern provinces, the Japanese merchants use it to obtain tea market privileges for the three northeastern provinces to sell Japanese tea.

May 1, 1937, the National Government Ministry of Industry established the Chinese tea company in Shanghai, however, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident two months later caused the company to relocate Chongqing.

Starting from 1938, the state implemented state management of tea, with controlled purchase and marketing, merchants, farmers received a big boost to their enthusiasm. In particular, the Soviet government, in an effort to support the Chinese Anti-Japanese War, provided military equipment and medicine, and the Ministry of Finance Committee of Trade conducted a barter agreement. Chinese tea sold to the Soviet Union changed routes from Shanghai and Hankou to be carried out by the Trade Committee’s local office in Hong Kong called Fuhua company. Because of the Japanese occupation in 1944, China’s tea export ports were blocked, and with the exports halted, the National Government revoked business.

During the Chinese civil war, the Chiang Kai-shek regime collapsed fully in the political, military, economic and other aspects, the inflation was so severe that a mule carrying a full bundle of currency couldn’t buy a roll of toilet paper. According to statistics, in 1948 China’s export of tea was 17,500 tons, but in an era where the inflation so severe, the export value could not be calculated, China’s tea industry was in dire straits.

October 1, 1949, People’s Republic of China was founded, and the Chinese tea industry underwent a revitalization and rebirth, and gradually developed. In 1998 Chinese tea acreage, production and exports (customs statistics) respectively, rose from 1950’s 211,500 hm^2, 7.19 million tons and 18,800 tons to 1.066 million hm^2, 665,000 tons and 218,000 tons.

The path to the Republic was not an easy one, and neither was the path to success for the Chinese tea industry. As one can see from the above history, Chinese tea had to overcome more than just adversity in terms of finding markets and making a profit, but also wars, poor scientific standards, a bad economy, backward safety practices and foreign domination of businesses.