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junshufa 均輸法, balanced-delivery law

May 18, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

The balanced-delivery law (junshufa 均輸法) was a method to curb the prices of commodities delivered to the imperial household during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126) and to have a better control over the spending of tax revenue on the local level of administration. It was part of the reform politics of Wang Anshi 王安石. The law was introduced in 1069 and had been inspired by similar methods once proposed by Sang Hongyang 桑弘羊 during the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) and Liu Yan 劉晏 during the Tang period 唐 (618-907).

Commodities needed by the court and government institutions were to be purchased by the financial institutions in the six circuits of southeast China and the transport commissioners (fayunshi 發運使) responsible for tea, salt, alum and liquors. For this purpose the central government treasury provided 500 strings of copper cash and ordered to prepare annually an amount of 3 million shi 石 (see weights and measures) of rice. These amounts were flexible and geared to the financial situation of the central treasury. The commissioners bought articles at low prices wherever and whenever possible and stored them in government warehouses or transported them to places where prices were higher (xi gui jiu jian, yong jin yi yuan 徙貴就賤,用近易遠).

In this way, government expenditure was not only lowered, but the supply of items needed was secured. Critics brought forward that Wang Anshi was carrying out a price war with merchants, and modern Marxist historians see in this measure an implementation of state monopoly capitalism (mainly because the state was able to sell the stored goods at higher prices, and thus profited from this business), while others interpret it a a measure to levy the tax burden imposed on the population.

Sources:
Chen Dewei 陳德維, ed. (1992). Shichang da cidian 市場大辭典 (Beijing: Zhongguo kexue jishu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 536.
Chen Jingliang 陳景良 (1998). "Junshufa 均輸法", in Jiang Ping 江平, Wang Jiafu 王家福, ed. Minshang faxue da cidian 民商法學大辭書 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 423.
Li Bingzhong 李秉忠, Wei Canjin 衛燦金, Lin Conglong 林從龍, ed. (1990). Jianming wenshi zhishi chubanshe 簡明文史知識詞典 (Xi’an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 419.
Lin Songmei 林松梅 (1993). “Junshufa 均輸法", in Shi Quanchang 石泉長, ed. Zhonghua baike yaolan 中華百科要覽 (Shenyang: Liaoning remin chubanshe), 122.
Zhu Ninglin 朱寧林, ed. (1991). Xin jiage cidian 新價格辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 721.