ECON0605 Economics History of China Dr.

Patrick Leung

Lok Wing Yan 2008027078

Written Assignment
According to The Great Divergence presented by Kenneth Pomeranz, as well as the equilibrium trap from Mark Elvin, they aimed to explain the reasons why industrial revolution did not occur in China before 19th Century. Pomeranz tried to seek equilibrium between situations China and Britain in order to analyze the reasons. However, according to the journals presented by Philips Huang, arguments over the reasons for China stagnation were aroused and questioned. It was pointed out that limitations, errors and problems are found from The Great Divergence. Followings would be discussions of those problems. In order to investigate why industrial revolution did not happen before 19th Century, it is important to view this issue from both agriculture and population aspects. Pomeranz focused on the equilibrium between China and England so as to explain the reasons behind, however, it is found that there exist many differences in between. For agriculture aspect, Pomeranz dismissed the difference between England and China. For England, most of the farms were pasture and animal-feed which required greater usage of animal rather than human. While for China, most of the farms were crop-feed which meant greater labor intensification and the use of animal like donkey, for the replacement of human was kept to a minimum. Since 17th Century, most of the farms in Yangzi Delta focused on growing human-consumed crops like wheat, wet rice rather than livestock. For those in low-lying areas like southern part of China, they mainly grew mulberries. Those human-consumed crops were less captive intensive and also it affected the diet of people living there, as well as their wearing and clothing habit. For this reason, they mainly used cotton as the raw material for clothing. This also helped pushing the development of cotton-growing from 1350 to 1800. Those farmers who originally responsible for rice-cropping turned to cotton-growing which required about eighteen times of labor as compared to rice-cropping. Besides the kind of crops they grew, the fertilizers used by England and China were also different. For England, they tended to use green fertilizer rather than human manure and started the early adaption of chemical fertilizer. While for China, farmers continued the use of pig and human manure, urine as base fertilizer. Not until 18th Century, shipping between different regions in China became developed, farmers started to use (soy) beancake as chase fertilizer. To conclude, England and the Yangzi Delta indeed showed different pattern of labor intensity, farm size, as well as agricultural land per capita. China had relatively larger size of farm land, as well as agricultural land per capita compared with England. In addition to agriculture part, the claim towards productivity by Pomeranz also showed some problems. In his research, he claimed that Yangzi Delta was no more under a population or resource squeeze in 1800 than Britain. [1] It is believed that in 1800, the labor productivity in Britain was higher than that of China. However, if land productivity

people there intended to marry in an earlier age such that farm production was inherited from one generation to the next in a faster stage. This started to bring up the development of family production. (That moment. elderly or even children which were normally not in the labor force of farming sector to take part in cotton and silk production. This improvement eventually squeezed out the large wage-labor-based farms since the ease of household farming was greatly increased. there started the involution of cotton and silk production. it was hard to attain economics of scale since family was usually unable to afford expensive expenses for such machines or equipments. there was higher rate of marriage there. there was a technological improved spinning wheel in 18th Century which can greatly increase the efficiency of spinning. farms in China remained in crop production. it attracted woman. For handicraft industry. there was no change in demographic behavior. not account for much production. However. China was still household-based production. For China. household-based farms became more and more popular. As a result. Since Pomeranz ignored the part of woman. However. Pomeranz viewed the ³nascent capitalism´ by Levine as just normal involution. In 1800. On the consideration of resistance to labor-saving capitalization. due to the elimination of the possibility of economics of scale.) Due to its high price. especially in Yangzi Delta. Although those productions resulted in a lower return compared with farming. There was also significant difference between the family home industry in Yangzi Delta and proto-industrialization in England. since it was inconsistent and the price he took in account was indeed the retail price charged by merchant rather than the real income received by peasant. there existed chemical fertilizer and mechanical revolution for advanced farming technology. it remained uneconomical for Chinese household to adapt. as well as rural handicraft industry rather than animal-feed or pasture. it finally came to the wrong conclusion. Not until 1950 to 1980. for household-based farms. this improvement of technology marked a crucial revolutionary stage in handicraft industry which led them faster pace to industrial revolution. China showed a higher rate than Britain. This mistaken by Pomeranz mainly due to the ignorance of familization of production. Instead. Pomeranz ignored the restriction on economy of scale by family production. for England and Dutch. Pomeranz adapted the grab-bag approach in the calculation of peasant income. Patrick Leung Lok Wing Yan 2008027078 was taken into consideration. Therefore. Pomeranz overlooked this restriction and therefore error was shown in the calculation of spinner output. For England.ECON0605 Economics History of China Dr. Moreover. elderly and children in cotton and silk production. there was agriculture . However. rural handicraft industry which mainly relied on woman and elderly were only sideline activity. due to its demographic pattern. his estimation on income and cotton cloth production was therefore unrealistic. However. In England. Pomeranz also ignored the development of urbanization in England and China. this turning point from large scale farming place to family based farm marked an important reason for why industrialization failed to happen.

female infanticide was quite a popular practice in rural China. In his research. it is mentioned that both agriculture and population were important in investigating the reasons why industrial revolution did not happen in China until 19th Century. However. he skipped the point of growing demand for urban goods which help driving the start of industrial revolution. he came to the results of ³Chinese textile consumption stacked up quite well against that of Europe in the mid.to late eighteenth century´. the farming pattern remained family based. (Since woman and elderly were generally not counted in the calculation of work force) Raising income increased the demand for urban goods like mirror. since no urban town growth can be developed due to the failure of agriculture revolution. Pomeranz also focused in the wrong consumption combination. He put his focus on tea and sugar consumption which indeed only accounted for 5% of the total consumption rather than other peasant household consumption which had more significant effect in demand pattern. the employment of woman and elderly for cotton and silk production. Although Pomeranz did mentioned about clothing consumption. another researcher Xu Xinwu pointed out that about 70-90% of cotton and cloth production were for export to other regions of China rather than local uses.ECON0605 Economics History of China Dr. per-capita production was used and therefore came to the conclusion that China was comparable to England and other European countries by giving the readers the impressions that per-capita consumption of clothing was similar to that of per-capita production. However. as well as cotton consumption by Pomeranz. though resulted in lower return and therefore lowered the average wage per worker compared with farm work. Right at the beginning of this paper. Pomeranz had no mention of agriculture revolution and new urbanization in his research. This consumption pattern changes actually indicated the start of industrial revolution. In The Great Divergence proposed by Pomeranz. Besides the ignorance to the changes in consumption pattern. According to James Lee. books clocks etc. there were also arguments in the purpose of cotton and cloth production. Therefore. [1] Besides. For the case of China. Pomeranz¶s discussion on population was based on what James Lee mentioned. After discussing in agriculture aspect. Finally. Patrick Leung Lok Wing Yan 2008027078 revolution in 17th-18th Century which helped increasing the supply of food through more advanced technology. it increased the family total income since originally they obtained very low or even zero income. Pomeranz thought that the cotton and cloth production mainly aimed to maximize the output per unit of land due to the reason for exchanging grain for family supporting. it is now turned to the population side. It can be seen that there was wrong estimation of clothing. misleading comparisons were used. This was because . Or this can be regarded as postnal abortion where poor peasants would give up the daughters after birth in order to give birth to more sons instead. From what Jan De Vries mentioned. it could be able to support large off farm population with greater supply and town-based proto-industrialization was developed in this way.

In addition to this. long spacing´ [1] towards the situation in China. like (i) Buying and selling of woman and (ii) Raise of ³rogue male´ population. Apart from birth. With this support. Long spacing happened between children. However. Arthur Wolf proposed the saying of ³Late starting. Besides Kenneth Pomeranz. coal issue is also important in studying the reasons of China stagnation. However. certain numbers of babies being killed once they were born was erased from the mortality data. it is believed that the calculation of 25% was wrong and indeed the actual number should be greater. Besides. he mentioned that the shortage of raw . it results in low birth rate. Pomeranz stated that there was difficult access of coal mine in northwest which hidden the growth of resources and thus slow down the growth of industrial revolution in 18th Century. James came up to the conclusion that about 25% of newly infant girls were killed every year. Yangzi Delta and Muslim upraising etc. but with quite a high rate of total martial fertility. China actually showed surplus from taxes. the late development of industrial revolution and lack of resources were unrelated with each other. Pomeranz concluded that the life expectancy. Moreover. However. Therefore. Pomeranz also ignored the demographic record of massive disasters in mid 19th Century like Taiping upraising. Conjecture of population pressure with inequality was therefore formed and later this resulted in an expanding power of lower peasant class to fight for their right and respect. After those disasters. Mark Elvin also proposed some reasons for China stagnation. This also showed a hidden path for industrial revolution to start. land rent. profits and interest payments. Therefore. He mentioned that society¶s surplus was indeed falling continuously. And indeed. which proved that lack of resources should not be one the reasons. and thus there was less and less capital left for development of technology. Pomeranz also skipped some important changes relating population during 18th Century. the total martial fertility rate was calculated wrongly as well. the development of China coal mine grew quickly since 1896. the population showed a significant drop in numbers and indeed it should be equated with the absence of subsistence pressure. Besides agriculture and population. Patrick Leung Lok Wing Yan 2008027078 sons can result in greater labor productivity compared with daughters. the population pattern in China was indeed quite different with that of England and Europe and thus incomparable. their value were very low and therefore it showed insignificant record of woman population. Since it only took into account the number of babies killed greater than two months. according to Tim Wright. Therefore. which resulted from poor nutrition and the lack of necessities of the poor. Late starting indicated late birth of babies which related to early marriage and late menarche while early stopping meant people stopped to give birth to new babies in an early age. as well as the mortality of Chinese was roughly comparable with that of European. he mentioned that China was one of the best-endowed countries in terms of coal deposit. early stopping. Since woman had relatively low social status during that period due to their low rate of productivity. Addressing the population issue.ECON0605 Economics History of China Dr.

In conclusion. and fuel and metals. Therefore. The Great Divergence proposed by Pomeranz cannot be regarded as totally wrong since some parts of it did mention the importance and it did served as a nice reference for further study of long history of Chinese economy development. technology is one the possible ways.ECON0605 Economics History of China Dr. shortage should push the rate of technology development rather than slow down it. In facing those problems of shortage. like cotton. like copper also hidden the growth of industrial revolution. Patrick Leung Lok Wing Yan 2008027078 materials. . both Kenneth Pomeranz and Mark Elvin indeed provided many reasons to explain why industrial revolution did not happen in China until 19th Century. There are also many debates among different views over their views.

͞China in the Early Modern World: Shortcuts. Facts are Stubborn Things: A Response to Philip Huang. Further Thoughts on Eighteenth Century Britain and China: Rejoinder to Pomeranz͛s Response to My Critique. Philip Huang. Kenneth Pomeranz. Myths and Realties͟ http://web. Development or Involution in Eighteenth Century Britain and China? A Review of Kenneth Pomeranz͛s The Great Divergence.pdf . Kenneth Pomeranz. Peter Lindert. The Journal of Asian Studies. 2002 2.pdf 6. ͞Preliminary Global Price Comparison.iisg.com/The%20Great%20Divergence. Philip Huang. Patrick Leung Lok Wing Yan 2008027078 References 1.ECON0605 Economics History of China Dr. The Journal of Asian Studies.cuberoof. The Journal of Asian Studies. 2003 4. The Journal of Asian Studies.mit.htm 7.504/www/china_emod. Beyond the East-West Binary: Restituting Development Paths in the Eighteenth Century. Kenneth Pomeranz. Peter Perdue.nl/hpw/papers/lindert. http://academics. 2003 5. 1500-1870͟ http://www. 2002 3.edu/21h. The Great Divergence.

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