The public-works projects that the Mongols initiated in China
the building of the capital city in Daidu (Beijing),
the construction of a summer capital in Shangdu (Xanadu),
the building of roads and a network of postal stations, the
extension of the Grand Canal were all extraordinarily
All these projects required vast investments of labor and
capital secured through inordinately high taxation upon the
peasantry and the merchants. Toward the end of Khubilai Khan's
reign, the Mongols resorted to a deliberate inflation of the
currency to cover costs. Those who administered these policies
the financial administrators who initiated the additional
taxation or inflation of the currency were mostly foreigners,
such as Muslims and Tibetans, that the Mongols had brought
in from their other domains.
These fiscal problems undermined the economy, and before
long the Mongols could no longer maintain even the public-works
projects traditionally supported by the native Chinese dynasties,
such as the Grand Canal or the irrigation-control projects
along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. The results were predictable.
In the 1340s terrible floods erupted, changing the course
of the Yellow River and leaving a large group of people homeless
and wandering around the countryside amid much confusion and
destruction. Ultimately, some of these bands of unemployed
and homeless peasants united into a rebel force, and in the
1350s began the process of ousting the Mongols from China.
By the mid-1360s, many of the Mongols had already returned
to Mongolia, and the Ming dynasty, a native Chinese dynasty,
finally took back control of China in 1368.