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Article Teaser: 5/19/2008 9:48PM China's love affair with green tea is believed to have begun thousands of years ago. It took centuries for the Chinese to share this secret with their neighbors in Japan and even longer for the country to begin exporting this bountiful crop to destinations all over the world.

Keep reading below...

Impacts On China - Green Tea And The Global Trade

Copyright (c) 2008-2017

5/19/2008 9:48PM China's love affair with green tea is believed to have begun thousands of years ago. It took centuries for the Chinese to share this secret with their neighbors in Japan and even longer for the country to begin exporting this bountiful crop to destinations all over the world.

As China's second biggest export behind silk in the pre-industrial years, tea no doubt had a major impact on this country when it was finally released for general consumption. But, what exactly happened to China when the tea craze went global? Did this export create the desire for mass production and the creation of surpluses? Did it plunge the Chinese into a capital frenzy? Or, was the impact of exportation minimal?

Looking At A Microcosm

Historian Robert Gardella took a very close look at the impacts of global trade on China in the 19th century. One of his studies focused heavily on the tea trade in particular in one small region. Southeast China's Fujian was the subject of his study on tea and globalization in China.

Prior to global trade coming to China, this particular region survived economically by focusing on two different means. The first involved working the land and the mountains by growing crops, engaging in forestry and creating hand crafts. The second involved maritime activities, such as fishing, piracy, smuggling and migration of people out of China. These two distinct ways of living came together in a big way when in 1842 the Port of Fuzhou was opened up to foreign trade. This led to a huge rise in tea exportation to the United States, Great Britain and other global destinations. Tea produced in the northern area of Fujian was suddenly in high demand - a state that would remain so through the 1880s.

The Positive Impacts

While the globalization of green tea products was long in the coming, when it arrived in the Fujian region, some good things did happen as a result.

Historian Gardella points to a number of benefits the Fujian people realized as a result of the tea trade. They include:

  • Output increases - The Fujian region became much better at growing and exporting tea to meet the booming demands. This had all sorts of positive impacts on the region.
  • Higher incomes - The people of the Fujian region found that the ability to earn an income was suddenly increased thanks to the tea boon.
  • Government resources - As more money flowed through the port, the Chinese government offered more resources to the area.
  • A bringing together of the region - The tea trade brought the people of the Fujian region together in a mutually beneficial act.

  • While the tea trade did bring some very big benefits to the Fujian region, not all impacts were good. Unfortunately, some of the impacts would prove even a bit devastating to the region.

    The Downside Of Globalization

    The tea trade wasn't all wine and roses for China. As demands increased for tea, so too did the negative impacts of production and exportation. According to Gardella's study, some of the pitfalls on the Fujian region included:

  • Vulnerable local economy - Unfortunately, the tea trade did not come with a structural transformation of the local economy. This meant that the people who made their livelihoods in the trade found themselves at the mercy of the global market. As worldwide conditions fluctuated, so too did the conditions within this region.
  • Environmental impacts - The Fujian region and its lands were not acclimated to the mass production of crops. As the trade grew, so too did soil erosion and deforestation.
  • Social problems - To meet the growing demands of the tea trade, many foreign workers moved into the region. Just like the gold rush in South Dakota's Black Hills, the tea rush brought "undesirable elements" into the region, led to some outbreaks of social unrest and also involved an increase in the imports of opium to the region.

  • Why The Boon Ended

    Although the Fujian region enjoyed a major shot in the arm for several decades, there were several factors that combined to bring the boon to an end. Gardella points to the decentralized, market-driven type of production and the loosely formed marketing networks that oversaw the tea trade as pitfalls that led to the end of the boon. Also, as advances came in the production of tea, the Fujian region often did not adopt them. Between an inability to keep up with the high costs of production and the introduction of taxes, the region could not compete with other countries that began to produce tea in mass. Fujian, in short, lost out. It was simply unable to compete with industrial plantations in places like India. Competition from Japan also put a beating on the local market.

    As the tea trade moved elsewhere, the Fujian economy fell into decline. As it was in many gold mining towns in America at roughly the same time, the trade moved elsewhere and so did many of the people and much of the money.

    The globalization of the green tea trade in the 1800s brought both perks and pitfalls to China. Within the Fujian region itself, an economic upswing brought jobs, government support and immigrants. These changes, however, were soon followed by a crash.


    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    Jon Stout is Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company. For more information about green tea,oolong tea and chai tea go to http://www.goldenmoontea.com

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