Fujian, a southern coastal province the size of the state of Pennsylvania, has a rich tradition of international trade and a large flow of migration to Southeast Asia. The province has experienced economic ups and downs, but since 1978 the development of light industry and an increase in investments from overseas Chinese has resulted in a period of huge growth.

Like Guangdong Province, Fujian Province in recent years has played a key role in the economic transformation of China. Its geography and location, its long relationships with other countries and territories, and its tradition of commerce have given it an advantage in China’s economic reform and development processes.

Fujian is a southern coastal province that is endowed with a subtropical climate. Its geography is a study in contrasts—a limited coastal area with ports of different sizes and a mountainous and hilly inland area where communication has always been difficult. Fujian’s limited cultivated land and the demographic pressures that this limitation presents have stimulated emigration, especially from its southern region, from where the Minnan and the Hakka people have fled to Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Although the Hakka and the Minnan are the dominant ethnicities and dialects of Fujian, more than ten dialects are currently spoken in the province because of its traditionally weak communications network.

Not unexpectedly, migration also has stimulated trade. As early as the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE), vessels from as far as the Middle East visited Quanzhou ??, one of Fujian’s port cities, making the province an important center for international trade and hastening its economic development.

The first blow to this development came during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) with the “closure” of China and the prohibition of international trade. However, “the ban simply reduced to smugglers and pirates all sea-going merchants, of whom there were many” (Faure 1996, 7). The conquest of Taiwan by Koxinga ???, a Japanese-Chinese Ming loyalist from Fujian, during the mid-seventeenth century also had a negative impact on trade. During the nineteenth century Fujian greatly suffered from war and lost its importance in maritime trade.

The Communist victory in 1949 marginalized Fujian further. Because of its connections with and proximity to Taiwan, Fujian was considered by Beijing to be politically unreliable. The Communist leadership also feared a military attack from Taiwan, a fear justified by the bombing of the Fujian coast during the early years of Communist rule. Consequently, the province was denied major investment opportunities throughout the Maoist era, while it had to support a predatory army. These two factors were damageable to the Fujian economy because it was traditionally based on light industry and trade, while Maoist policies emphasized the development of rice cultivation and heavy industry. As a result, by 1978 Fujian had become one of the poorest provinces in China.

The 1978 economic reforms signaled the renewal of prosperity for Fujian. Once more it could capitalize on its connections with the outside world (including, since the end of the 1980s, Taiwan), and it received huge donations and investments from overseas Chinese. Beijing recognized Fujian’s potential to attract foreign direct investment and created the special economic zone of Xiamen ??, in the south of the province, in 1980.

These policies also gave more emphasis to light industries, which, along with Fujian’s attraction of foreign investment, allowed the province to become a major producer and exporter of sport shoes, garments, and so forth. Finally, the reforms that occurred in the countryside at the national level also benefited Fujian, which made use of its comparative advantages: Its status as a major producer of tropical fruits and tea—notably oolong tea from Anxi ?? County, which has become world famous—was reemphasized. Fujian, despite its limited size and population, was China’s sixth-largest exporter and recipient of foreign direct investment in 2006. With a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of RMB 21,471 (US$2,683.88), Fujian ranked ninth among all provinces.

Further Reading

Augustin-Jean, L. (2006). The local Chinese economy in the context of globalization: Local organization versus WTO principles: An overview from Zhangpu and Yong’an Districts, Fujian Province. In E. K. Y. Chen, A. Androuais, & L. Augustin-Jean (Eds.), Asian economic dynamism in the age of globalisation. (pp. 165–179). Hong Kong: Centre for Asian Pacific Studies, Lingnan University.

Faure, D. (1996). History and culture. In B. Hook (Ed.), Guangdong: China’s promised land (pp. 31–70). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

Hook, B. (Ed.). (1996). Fujian: Gateway to Taiwan. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

Kirk, M. (Ed.). (2009). China by numbers 2009. Hong Kong: China Economic Review Publishing.

Lyon, T. P. (1994). Poverty and growth in a south China county, Anxi, Fujian, 19491992. Ithaca, NY: Cornell East Asia Series.

Tan Chee-Beng. (Ed.). (2006). Southern Fujian: Reproduction of traditions in post-Mao China. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

Yeung, Y. M., & Chu, D. K. Y. (Eds.). (2000). Fujian: A coastal province in transition and transformation. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

Source: Augustin-Jean, Louis. (2009). Fujian Province. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 878–879. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Fujian Province (Fújiàn Sh?ng ???)|Fújiàn Sh?ng ??? (Fujian Province)

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