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China’s GDP per capita from the Han Dynasty to communist times

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  • Deng, Kent
  • O’Brien, Patrick Karl

Abstract

Our article is a critical survey of the concepts and data utilized by economists and economic historians that purport to measure relative levels and long term trends in GDP per capita from the Han Dynasty to Communist times. We favour attempts to extend macro-economic analysis and its associated quantification to China’s long imperial history, but have concluded that estimates calibrated in international dollars for 1900, or 2005 or 2011 are not fit for that purpose. Furthermore, and after surveying recent endeavours to reconstruct the published secondary and official statistical sources available for the measurement of primary production for Ming and Qing China (1368-1911), we reluctantly suggest that Kuznetian paradigms for empirical economics are probably not viable, either for the measurement of the empire’s growth over time or for reciprocal comparisons with European economies. This is because on both conceptual and statistical grounds the concept and associated metric for GDP per capita does not travel easily and securely between the fiscal systems of China and the West (Yun-Casallila and O’Brien 2012).

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:64857
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/64857/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 77276, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. 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.
    3. Guimel Hernández-Garay, 2018. "Consumption of Chinese silk fabrics in Marseille and Seville, 1680 – 1840," Working Papers 18.01, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History.
    4. 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.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    GDP accounting; Kuznetsian paradigm; Great Divergence;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • N55 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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