Gregory VEECK Jia Yu Guan Iron and Steel Company, 1983. PHOTO BY JOAN LEBOLD COHEN. China has extensive mineral resources
In the distant past, the vast majority of China’s territory was forested, but much was lost due to over-use and neglect—especially during the past hundred years. Only now are efforts underway to correct decades of abuse, and only because environmental problems such as wind and water erosion, dust storms, and desertification grew so severe that action had to be taken.
Silver, originally used solely as ornamentation, was the most important currency of late imperial China, although it came mainly from abroad. A global silver shortage in the early nineteenth century almost overturned the Qing dynasty, which was temporarily rescued by an increased supply of silver due to the sale of silk and tea abroad. It was not until 1935 that the Chinese government controlled the monetary system by putting China onto the paper currency system.