From Divergence to Convergence: Reevaluating the History behind China's Economic Boom
Loren Brandt (),
Debin Ma and
Journal of Economic Literature, 2014, vol. 52, issue 1, 45-123
China's long-term economic dynamics pose a formidable challenge to economic historians. The Qing Empire (1644-1911), the world's largest national economy before 1800, experienced a tripling of population during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with no signs of diminishing per capita income. While the timing remains in dispute, a vast gap emerged between newly rich industrial nations and China's lagging economy in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Only with an unprecedented growth spurt beginning in the late 1970s did this great divergence separating China from the global leaders substantially diminish, allowing China to regain its former standing among the world's largest economies. This essay develops an integrated framework for understanding that entire history, including both the divergence and the recent convergent trend. We explain how deeply embedded political and economic institutions that contributed to a long process of extensive growth before 1800 subsequently prevented China from capturing the benefits associated with the Industrial Revolution. During the twentieth century, the gradual erosion of these historic constraints and of new obstacles erected by socialist planning eventually opened the door to China's current boom. Our analysis links China's recent development to important elements of its past, while using recent success to provide fresh perspectives on the critical obstacles undermining earlier modernization efforts, and their eventual removal.
JEL-codes: N15 N45 O11 O47 P21 P24 P26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.52.1.45
References: Add references at CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (51) Track citations by RSS feed
Downloads: (external link)
Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.
Working Paper: From Divergence to Convergence: Re-evaluating the History Behind China’s Economic Boom (2013)
Working Paper: From divergence to convergence: re-evaluating the history behind China’s economic boom (2013)
Working Paper: From divergence to convergence: re-evaluating the history behind China’s economic boom (2012)
Working Paper: From Divergence to Convergence: Re-evaluating the History Behind China's Economic Boom (2012)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:52:y:2014:i:1:p:45-123
Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from
Access Statistics for this article
Journal of Economic Literature is currently edited by Steven Durlauf
More articles in Journal of Economic Literature from American Economic Association Contact information at EDIRC.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Michael P. Albert ().