The likin or lijin[n 1] was a form of internal tariff in the Chinese Empire and Republic, which was first introduced as a means of financing the largely locally-recruited armies to suppress the Taiping Rebellion.
The likin tax was first introduced in 1853 by censor Lei Yixian in the area around Yangzhou as a way of raising funds in the campaigns against local rebels. As the central government was short of revenue, the imperial court sanctioned the tax and it quickly became an important source of funds for the campaign against the Taiping and Nian rebellions.
The tax was levied on an ad valorem basis on goods in transit between provinces and on shops, with rates ranging from 2 to 10 per cent. After the Taipings were suppressed in 1864, the likin became a permanent feature of the Chinese tax system and it became an important source of revenue for local government, as China had lost its external tariff autonomy after the conclusion of the Treaty of Nanking. In many ways, the tax signified the decentralization of state authority in the wake of the Taiping rebellion.
Foreign merchants in the treaty ports believed that the likin tax, as a form of tariff acting against western as well as local goods, was a violation of the treaties which China had concluded with the West. Consequently, foreign merchants made a number of unsuccessful attempts to pressure the Chinese government to abolish it. It survived the fall of the Qing dynasty into the Warlord Era and was not ended until 1 January 1931.
- Wright, Mary Clabaugh (1962), The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T'ung-chih Restoration, 1862-1874, Volume 13 of Stanford studies in history, economics, and political science, Stanford University Press, pp. 53,167, ISBN 0804704759
- Philip A. Kuhn. The creation of the treaty system in TWITCHETT / FAIRBANK The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 10 , Cambridge, 1978. Cf. Pg 289
- Beal, Edwin George. The Origin of Likin, 1853–1864. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958.
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