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

Deng, Kent and O’Brien, Patrick Karl (2016) China’s GDP per capita from the Han Dynasty to communist times. Economic History working paper series (229/2016). The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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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).

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 The Authors
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N0 - General > N00 - General
N - Economic History > N5 - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment, and Extractive Industries > N55 - Asia including Middle East
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O4 - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity > O40 - General
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O5 - Economywide Country Studies > O53 - Asia including Middle East
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Collections > Economists Online
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2016 12:35
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2020 00:13

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