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A critical survey of recent research in Chinese economic history

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  • Deng, Kent

Abstract

China is a resilient dinosaur. In contrast with so many other great empires in Eurasia – the Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine, Arabian, Ottoman and Tsarist-Soviet – China has the longest history. The Empire kept expanding until the mid-nineteenth century when it practically reached the physical limits for a predominantly agrarian economy. The size and wealth of the Chinese economy, the variety of its produce and the degree of commercialisation and urbanisation made China one of the most popular international trading destinations from Roman times. With the rise of the opium trade in the early nineteenth century, however, the Chinese economy has been severely impoverished at least in relative terms. In response, since the 1870s, the Chinese sought to rescue their civilisation by adopting a wide range of foreign examples in social engineering for social experiments and reforms. Nevertheless, China's per capita GDP is still very low despite its political influence in the world since the 1970s. It is justifiable to view China as a case of growth failure in the recent centuries. The study of Chinese economic history has the same age as China's modern history itself. The field has been led and dominated by the West. Scholarly attempts have been made since the turn of this century to explain China's premodern success and its downfall after the Opium War. Two approaches can be identified: the 'Sinological approach' which refers to China only and the 'comparative method' which compares China with the West. The former tries to find out what achievements China managed to make and when and how it made them and the latter seeks to understand why premodern China was not industrialised.

Suggested Citation

  • Deng, Kent, 2000. "A critical survey of recent research in Chinese economic history," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 638, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:638
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/638/
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    Cited by:

    1. Greif, Avner & Tabellini, Guido, 2017. "The clan and the corporation: Sustaining cooperation in China and Europe," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 1-35.
    2. Hoskin, Keith & Macve, Richard, 2012. "Contesting the indigenous development of “Chinese double-entry bookkeeping” and its significance in China’s economic institutions and business organization before c.1850," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 42583, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Lei Jin, 2018. "A Study on Consumption of European Red Wine in China (1680-1840): state of the art, questions, hypothesis, sources and methodology," Working Papers 18.02, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History.
    4. 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.
    5. Loren Brandt & Debin Ma & Thomas G. Rawski, 2014. "From Divergence to Convergence: Reevaluating the History behind China's Economic Boom," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(1), pages 45-123, March.
    6. Koyama, Mark & Xue, Melanie Meng, 2015. "The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China," MPRA Paper 62103, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General

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