China shakes up 2,000-year-old salt monopoly

Image: Kuan Sun (Flickr)

China has moved closer to dismantling a 2,000-year-old government monopoly on table salt by allowing producers to set prices and sell directly to the market.

The monopoly has supported successive Chinese rulers from the Han dynasty onwards, and helped pay for the construction of the Great Wall. The Communist party retained the monopoly after taking control of the country in 1949, with courts continuing to imprison private salt sellers even in the past decade.

The reforms, which break the government’s stranglehold over an essential element in Chinese cuisine, come as market-oriented changes in several other sectors aimed at curbing the power of state monopolies have stalled.

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