Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
An Invisible Hand Behind: The Myth of the Chinese Tax System
ExpressO (2015)
  • Yan XU

To the casual observer, China in 2014 bears little resemblance to imperial society in place two thousand years ago. The agrarian rural society that dominated until recently has shifted to an urbanized services and manufacturing society. The emperor is long dead, along with the Republic government that followedand the subsequent Communist regime has morphed into Party led oligarchy guiding a state controlled market economy. A closer look, however, reveals a remarkable continuity of features. It seems that some aspects of life in China are more resistant to change and the continuity of these features to today indicates that some fundamental aspects of Chinese society remain, albeit in new clothes. This article illustrates the phenomenon with a look at the tax systems over the long history of China. In particular, it identifies five key phenomena that characterize Chinese taxation and shows how the five features remain in place throughout the long history, even today. The resistance to change suggests the underlying factors that give rise to these phenomena are as strong in today’s society as they were in past times. Any institutional changes in China’s political and legal system today that can be effectively applied to preventing abuses of power and protecting individual rights will, thus, be achieved only if those fundamental aspects are reformed or transformed to reflect the development of the economy and the society of the nation.

Publication Date
February 25, 2015
Citation Information
Yan XU. "An Invisible Hand Behind: The Myth of the Chinese Tax System" ExpressO (2015)
Available at: