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. According to the Financial Times, the reforms, which break the government’s stranglehold over the spice, come as market-oriented changes in several other sectors aimed at curbing the power of state monopolies have stalled. China’s state media on Monday said the move would lead to lower prices, with broadcaster CCTV hailing it as a “policy red envelope,” referring to the money-filled packets traditionally given away around Chinese new year.
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