Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2010, Vol. 65 ›› Issue (10): 1299-1310.doi: 10.11821/xb201010014

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The Spatial Structure of the Treaty Ports in Modern China: Based on the Chinese Marine Customs Foreign and Domestic Trade Data (1877-1947)

WANG Zhe, WU Songdi   

  1. Center for Historical Geography Study of Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China
  • Received:2010-01-09 Revised:2010-05-18 Online:2010-10-20 Published:2010-10-20


The economic links between ports were the most important index of spatial structure. Researches on the ports spatial structure evolution over a long period were not extensively conducted on the late-imperial China and the Republic of China. In this paper, the ports spatial structure of foreign and domestic trade including 46 cities was analyzed based on the Chinese Maritime Customs trade data. The results were obtained as follows: (1) Due to domestic political instability, institutional factors played a key role in the changing process of ports functions. The characteristics of the hinterland determined the ports function. (2) Based on the analysis of Net Total Foreign Imports and Total Exports of Local Origin, the small cities below the average level had an export-oriented trend and those above the average level tended to be balanced in trade. (3) The Herfindahl index of spatial structure on foreign trade was relatively high. The inter-ports trade network was at a moderate level of concentration, and it was also stable in the 50-year period. With the trade expansion in space and quantity, the direct transports between small cities took the place of the transit hub. However, there was an opposite trend during the Sino-Japanese War. (4) There was a huge difference between southern and northern China concerning the ports spatial structure. The inter-ports trade network in the Yangtze River Delta developed well but it was less developed in the Pearl River Delta. As to the Bohai Rim region, it could not present a basic exchange networks (in terms of the part under customs inspection). (5) The ports spatial structure in eastern coastal China since the 19th century went through three stages and reached its peak before the war. The structure was characterized by a Hub-Spoke network.

Key words: Chinese Maritime Customs, inter-port trade, spatial structure, Herfindahl index, modern China