The Premodern Chinese Economy: Structural Equilibrium and Capitalist Sterility

The Premodern Chinese Economy: Structural Equilibrium and Capitalist Sterility

The Premodern Chinese Economy: Structural Equilibrium and Capitalist Sterility

The Premodern Chinese Economy: Structural Equilibrium and Capitalist Sterility

Synopsis

This book is a comprehensive analysis of China's economic history. It provides an essential background to the study of China's struggle for growth and development, with insights into the concept of underdevelopment and theories of transitional economics.

Excerpt

This book is the final part of my trilogy dealing with the long-term economic history of premodern China. Together with my earlier works on the literati (Development versus Stagnation, 1993) and the maritime sector (Chinese Maritime Activities and Socio-economic Consequences, 1997), this book can, I hope, add in a small way to the debate on China’s economic history for the understanding of this long-lasting civilisation, its success and failure.

Ironically, my comparative advantage in undertaking research such as this has owed much to the notorious ‘Cultural Revolution’ during which I was sent, aged only 15 at that time, to a labour camp in Heilongjiang near the Sino-Soviet border. Towards the end of the ‘revolution’, after spending six long years in the camp, I consequently underwent a Stalin-type brain-washing programme and was officially recognised as being cleansed of my non-proletarian family background and its related ‘original sin’. Ridiculous as it may sound, I was even granted a quasi-peasant status by the authorities, as high a non-monetary reward as one could ever dream of during the Dark Age of the ‘revolution’. Although for me the brainwashing never worked, only stimulating my brain-shielding, the six-year-long hard labour did bring me down to earth and helped me develop a sense of reality, including an understanding of how institutions worked and what ordinary day-to-day peasant life was like in China. Later on, a heavy dosage of Western training, which was first arranged by my best friends, Dr Jane Orton and Mr Torrey Orton, only reinforced this sense.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the London School of Economics for funding this project. My gratitude goes in particular to Mrs Pip Austin, whose help made the project go much more smoothly and faster than planned, which has been unprecedented in my career.

I am deeply indebted to Professor Eric L. Jones of the University of Read-ing and the University of Melbourne for his continued support, guidance and advice in relation to this project since 1990. I am very grateful to Professor Patrick K. O’Brien of the Institute of Historical Research, London, Professor Ramon H. Myers of Stanford University, and my lse colleague Dr Gareth Austin, who kindly read the manuscript and made invaluable comments.

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