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The Silver Standard as a discipline on money over-issuance: The mechanism of paper money in Yuan China


  • Hanhui Guan

    () (Peking University)

  • Jie Mao

    () (University of International Business & Economics China)


"The Yuan was the first dynasty both in Chinese and world history to use paper money as its sole medium of circulation, and also established the earliest silver standard. This paper explores the impact of paper money in Yuan China. We find that: (1) At the beginning of its regime, due to the strict constraints of the silver standard on money issuances, the value of paper money was stable. (2) Since the middle stage of the dynasty, the central government had to finance fiscal deficits by issuing more paper money, and inflation was thus unavoidable. Our empirical results also demonstrate that fiscal pressure from multiple provincial rebellions was the most important factor driving the government to issue more paper money; however, the emperor’s largesse, which had been viewed as another source of fiscal deficits by most traditional historians, had no significant effect on the over-issuance of paper money. (3) When the monetary standard switched from silver to paper money, the impact of fiscal deficits, which were driving more paper money issuances, became much more severe. Based on these findings, we argue that the experience of Yuan China verified that metal standards could serve as a discipline on paper money over-issuances. This episode in Yuan China predates the money over-issuances observed during the era of the classic gold standard found in western countries by six centuries."

Suggested Citation

  • Hanhui Guan & Jie Mao, 2018. "The Silver Standard as a discipline on money over-issuance: The mechanism of paper money in Yuan China," Working Papers 18013, Economic History Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehs:wpaper:18013

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    silver standard; money over-issuance; paper money; convertibility; Yuan China;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East

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