IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cpr/ceprdp/8023.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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

Author

Listed:
  • Li, Bozhong
  • Van Zanden, Jan Luiten

Abstract

The debate about the long-term economic development of China compared with Europe has taken a new turn with the publication of Kenneth Pomeranz’ book on ‘The Great Divergence’, in which he maintains that before the Industrial Revolution the most advanced parts of China (in particular the Yangzi Delta) was in terms of real incomes on par with the richest regions in Western Europe (Great Britain, the Netherlands). His tentative results were very different from the estimates produced by Maddison (2001) who concluded that there was already a large gap in real per capita GDP between these two extreme parts of Eurasia. Using the method of historical national accounting, this paper tests these ideas on the basis of a detailed comparison of the structure and level of GDP in part of the Yangzi Delta and the Netherlands in the 1820s, also taking into account differences of purchasing power of the two currencies involved. The results are that Dutch GDP per capita was already almost twice the level in the Yangzi Delta, which is more or less consistent with Maddison’s point of view. The level of agricultural productivity in this part of China was, however, at about the same level as in the Netherlands (and England), but large productivity gaps existed in industry and services (with the exception of government services). We also attempt to explain the patterns found, and conclude that differences in factor costs may have been behind the observed differences in labour productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Li, Bozhong & Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2010. "Before the Great Divergence? Comparing the Yangzi Delta and the Netherlands at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 8023, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8023
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8023
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at subscribers@cepr.org

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert C. Allen, 2009. "Agricultural productivity and rural incomes in England and the Yangtze Delta, c.1620-c.1820 -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(3), pages 525-550, August.
    2. Burnette,Joyce, 2008. "Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521880633.
    3. Astrid Kander & Paul Warde, 2011. "Energy availability from livestock and agricultural productivity in Europe, 1815–1913: a new comparison," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(1), pages 1-29, February.
    4. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "Wages, Prices, and Living Standards in China, Japan, and Europe, 1738-1925," Economics Series Working Papers 316, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Broadberry, Stephen N & Guan, Hanhui & Li, David Daokui, 2017. "China, Europe and the great Divergence: A Study in Historical National Accounting, 980-1850," CEPR Discussion Papers 11972, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. 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.
    5. Shi Zhihong Yuping & Xuyi & Ni Yuping & Bas van Leeuwen, 2015. "Chinese National Income, ca. 1661-1933," Working Papers 0062, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    6. Broadberry, Stephen, 2013. "Accounting for the great divergence," Economic History Working Papers 54573, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. repec:bla:ozechr:v:57:y:2017:i:3:p:368-393 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    economic development; labour productivity; real incomes;

    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

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8023. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.