This article highlights the significance of salt administration reforms during modern China’s Beiyang government era, taking up the case of Yunnan province.From the last years of the Qing dynasty on, foreign salt imports began to infiltrate Chinese ports, and the Western Powers demanded that a tax be imposed on salt to fund the debt owed from the reconstruction loans (shanhou jiekuan 善後借款) they had provided. The salt administration reforms faction led by Zhang Jian 張謇 called for an open market for salt and uniform taxation of all salt extraction facilities, upon the premise that the formerly decentralized salt industry (extractors and refiners) be restructured and concentrated. As a matter of fact, the members of this faction were in the process of setting up a state-funded salt refining enterprise.In Yunnan, the uniform taxation of salt extraction and free markets had already been implemented under the Qing dynasty, although the latter had to be curtailed in the wake of Muslim insurrections of the mid-19th century. Moreover, salt manufacturers dominated the industry due to poor transportation infrastructure impeding salt merchants.The fact that extraction involved mining via salt wells made it easier to control salt smuggling; however, since the refining infrastructure was funded solely by manufacturers, and salt production rights were regarded as valuable assets to be bought and sold, reorganization of the industry by the government would all that more difficult.After the founding of the Republic of China, the first call for salt administrative reform was made by Xiao Kun 蕭堃, Yunnan’s salt commissioner (yanyunshi 塩運使), who introduced open market operations and subsidies to manufacturers to improve their refineries. In addition, Xiao argued that cooperative refineries should be built at the salt mines in order to strengthen the supervision of the manufacturers.As for the Western Powers, free trade in salt was welcomed by Richard Dane, the Foreign Chief Inspector of the Salt Revenue Administration (jihesuo 稽核所), based on the reasoning that an open market would expose extractors to the rigors of pure competition.Meanwhile, Xiao Kun proposed as an alternative to a salt refining public utility, an organization called Wubao 伍保, in which salt refiners were held jointly responsible for supervising each other. Both of these measures were aimed at preventing salt smuggling, while Wubao also promised improvements in law and order. Although Xiao Kun’s proposed reforms by no means outright called for the introduction of modem equipment or institutions, the organizational strengthening of salt mines and other local social institutions under government regulation can be said to have aspects in common with Zhang Jian’s state-sponsored salt refinery.