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Beyond the Shadow of the Law: Firm Insolvency, State-Building, and the New Policy Bankruptcy Reform in Late Qing Chongqing

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This paper modifies the historical assessment of the 1906 Qing Bankruptcy Code by proposing a new approach to the history of commercial dispute resolution. It argues that the Qing bankruptcy reform cannot be understood by evaluating only published sources, and that a thorough understanding of dispute mediation techniques must serve as a foundation for assessing the historical importance of the law. It offers a description of Qing insolvency dispute practices by providing an analysis of cases from the Ba county archives. The results of that analysis suggest that, although the Qing Bankruptcy Code was repealed soon after its introduction, the reform ambitions behind the new legislation were realized through the implementation of another New Policy reform, which allowed chambers of commerce to resolve bankruptcy disputes differently. This conclusion suggests that the basic vision of the Qing economic reforms of the New Policy movement had more of a lasting impact than has been assumed to date.


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