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Unfolding the Turbulent Century: A Reconstruction of China's Economic Development, 1840-1912


  • MA, Ye
  • JONG, Herman de


This paper reconstructs China's economic development between 1840 and 1912 with an estimation of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It provides for the first time a time series of GDP (per capita) for the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), based on sectoral output and value added, in current as well as in constant prices. The present estimation of per capita GDP in the late Qing period comes out higher than previous estimations, but it still suggests low average levels of Chinese living standards. The economy during the late Qing Empire was characterised by a large and growing agricultural sector and displayed only minor structural changes. Only in the beginning of the twentieth century did the economy start to show signs of growth.

Suggested Citation

  • MA, Ye & JONG, Herman de, 2016. "Unfolding the Turbulent Century: A Reconstruction of China's Economic Development, 1840-1912," Discussion paper series HIAS-E-29, Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Hitotsubashi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hit:hiasdp:hias-e-29

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    More about this item


    China; GDP; 19th century; living standards;

    JEL classification:

    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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