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Faculty Publications

Contract Law

2005

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From Imperial China To Cyberspace: Contracting Without The State, David D. Friedman Jan 2005

From Imperial China To Cyberspace: Contracting Without The State, David D. Friedman

Faculty Publications

In 1895, as part of the treaty of Shimonoseki, China ceded the island of Taiwan to Japan. The Japanese government wished to maintain the existing legal system; in order to do so it had to discover what that legal system was.

One feature of that legal system was the combination of elaborate contractual practice with an almost total absence of contract law. Imperial China had no equivalent of our civil lawsuits. A merchant who had sold goods on credit and not been paid could, if he wished, report his debtor to the district magistrate for the crime of swindling him-but …