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Before the Great Divergence? Comparing the Yangzi Delta and the Netherlands at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century

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  • Li, Bozhong
  • van Zanden, Jan Luiten

Abstract

This article tests recent ideas about the long-term economic development of China compared with Europe on the basis of a detailed comparison of structure and level of GDP in part of the Yangzi delta and the Netherlands in the 1820s. We find that Dutch GDP per capita was almost twice as high as in the Yangzi delta. Agricultural productivity there was at about the same level as in the Netherlands (and England), but large productivity gaps existed in industry and services. We attempt to explain this concluding that differences in factor costs are probably behind disparities in labor productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Li, Bozhong & van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2012. "Before the Great Divergence? Comparing the Yangzi Delta and the Netherlands at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(4), pages 956-989, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:72:y:2012:i:04:p:956-989_00
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert C. Allen, 2009. "Agricultural productivity and rural incomes in England and the Yangtze Delta, c.1620–c.18201," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(3), pages 525-550, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Broadberry, Stephen N, 2021. "Accounting for the Great Divergence: Recent Findings from Historical National Accounting," CEPR Discussion Papers 15936, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Li Tan, 2013. "Market‐Supporting Institutions, Gild Organisations, and the Industrial Revolution: A Comparative View," Australian Economic History Review, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 53(3), pages 221-246, November.
    3. Deng, Kent & O'Brien, Patrick, 2017. "How Well Did Facts Travel to Support Protracted Debate on the History of the Great Divergence between Western Europe and Imperial China?," MPRA Paper 77290, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Stephen Broadberry & Hanhui Guan & David Daokui Li, 2017. "China, Europe and the Great Divergence: A Study in Historical National Accounting, 980-1850," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _155, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Deng, Kent & O'Brien, Patrick, 2017. "How well did facts travel to support protracted debate on the history of the Great Divergence between Western Europe and Imperial China?," Economic History Working Papers 69923, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    6. Deng, Kent & Shengmin, Sun, 2019. "China’s extraordinary population expansion and its determinants during the qing period, 1644-1911," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 100921, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Yi Xu & Zhihong Shi & Bas Leeuwen & Yuping Ni & Zipeng Zhang & Ye Ma, 2017. "Chinese National Income, ca. 1661–1933," Australian Economic History Review, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 57(3), pages 368-393, November.
    8. Mitchener, Kris James & Ma, Debin, 2016. "Introduction to the special issue: a new economic history of China," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 69191, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Milanovic, Branko (Миланович, Бранко), 2016. "Global inequality of class to the country of residence of the proletarians to migrants [Глобальное Неравенство: От Классовой Принадлежности К Стране Проживания, От Пролетариев К Мигрантам]," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 14-26, February.
    10. Broadberry, Stephen, 2013. "Accounting for the great divergence," Economic History Working Papers 54573, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    11. Philip T. Hoffman, 2020. "The Great Divergence: Why Britain Industrialised First," Australian Economic History Review, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 60(2), pages 126-147, July.
    12. Rafael, Dobado-González & Alfredo, García-Hiernaux & David, Guerrero-Burbano, 2013. "West versus East: Early Globalization and the Great Divergence," MPRA Paper 48773, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Shuo Chen & James Kai-sing Kung, 2016. "Of maize and men: the effect of a New World crop on population and economic growth in China," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 71-99, March.
    14. Baten, Jörg & Sohn, Kitae, 2014. "Impoverished, but Numerate? Early Numeracy in East Asia (1550–1800) and its Impact on 20th and 21st Century Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 9991, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. XuYi & Bas van Leeuwen & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2015. "Urbanization in China, ca. 1100–1900," Working Papers 0063, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    16. Boško Mijatović & Branko Milanović, 2021. "The real urban wage in an agricultural economy without landless farmers: Serbia, 1862–1910," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 74(2), pages 424-448, May.
    17. Iris Claus & Les Oxley & Kent Deng, 2014. "A Survey Of Recent Research In Chinese Economic History," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(4), pages 600-616, September.
    18. Jutta Bolt & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2014. "The Maddison Project: collaborative research on historical national accounts," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(3), pages 627-651, August.
    19. Branko Milanovic, 2012. "Global Inequality: From Class to Location, from Proletarians to Migrants," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 3(2), pages 125-134, May.
    20. Baomin Dong & Jiong Gong & Kaixiang Peng & Zhongxiu Zhao, 2015. "Little Divergence: Evidence from Cotton Textiles in Japan and China 1868–1930," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 776-796, November.
    21. Deng, Kent, 2015. "China’s population expansion and its causes during the Qing period, 1644–1911," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64492, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    22. Deng, Kent & O’Brien, Patrick Karl, 2016. "China’s GDP per capita from the Han Dynasty to communist times," Economic History Working Papers 64857, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    23. Jan Luiten Zanden & Joerg Baten & Peter Foldvari & Bas Leeuwen, 2014. "The Changing Shape of Global Inequality 1820–2000; Exploring a New Dataset," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(2), pages 279-297, June.
    24. Kent Deng & Patrick Karl O’Brien, 2014. "Creative Destruction: Chinese GDP per capita from the Han Dynasty to Modern Times," Working Papers 0063, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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    JEL classification:

    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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