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An Economic History of Modern China

Joseph C.H. Chai, formerly Research Consultant, Research Grants Council, Hong Kong, China
As a country’s current development is path dependent, the rise of China and its strategic implications can only be understood in a historical context. Hence, the key to understanding contemporary China is the understanding of its past. So far there has been an absence of a comprehensive text dealing with Chinese economic history in the English language. An Economic History of Modern China fills this important gap, focusing on modern Chinese economic growth and comprehensively surveying the patterns of China’s growth experience over the past 200 years, from the Opium wars to the present day. Key events are traced back to their foundations in history to explain their impact on China’s modern economic growth.
Awarded Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2012
Extent: 288 pp
Hardback Price: $128.00 Web: $115.20
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 978 1 84720 937 5
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As a country’s current development is path dependent, the rise of China and its strategic implications can only be understood in a historical context. Hence, the key to understanding contemporary China is the understanding of its past. So far there has been an absence of a comprehensive text dealing with Chinese economic history in the English language. An Economic History of Modern China fills this important gap, focusing on modern Chinese economic growth and comprehensively surveying the patterns of China’s growth experience over the past 200 years, from the Opium wars to the present day. Key events are traced back to their foundations in history to explain their impact on China’s modern economic growth.
‘Chai’s meticulous integration of historical events makes this concise yet comprehensive study a superb work.’
– B.F. Hope, Choice

‘This book is a remarkable tour de force. Joseph Chai offers a fine synthesis of thinking about the nature and origins of China’s long-run economic growth and structural change. Through the meticulous use of an impressive range of sources, he explores some of the most challenging puzzles of China’s economic history, such as its failure to match the modern industrial revolutions of Western Europe, or, closer to home, to rival Japan’s economic transformation in the final decades of the nineteenth century. His definition of history is broad and his narrative extends down to the present day, thereby illuminating continuities and discontinuities across not only the historical divides of 1840 and 1911, but also those of 1949 and 1979. But despite its ambitious scope, Chai’s analysis is authoritative, nuanced and full of detail. It will surely become necessary reading not only within the academic community of China scholars and students, but also among that even larger audience of readers seeking to understand the “rise of China”.’
– Robert Ash, University of London, UK

‘For most people interested in the contemporary Chinese economy, the story begins with Deng Xiaoping’s policy of Opening and Reform in 1978. This is especially true of students from China, where modern history is still taught in a simple, politically determined framework. This situation urgently needs remedying and Joseph Chai’s new book is a valuable step in this direction. Chai surveys China’s economic growth from the earliest times to the present day explaining the key turning points and the intellectual puzzles that arise in this long evolution. This book will be of interest to the general reader and will be valuable as a textbook for students studying any aspect of China’s current development and prospects.’
– Christopher Howe, University of London, UK

‘Joseph Chai places the recent phase of China’s spectacular economic growth in its historical context in his well-researched, interesting and accessible overview of the economic history of China. Because no similar up-to-date book is available in English, English readers will find this book particularly welcome. Valuable attributes of his exposition include analyses of various economic puzzles (for example, why did China, which was once the world’s economic leader, falter, suffer economic retardation, fall behind Europe and begin its economic resurgence later than Japan?) and his thoughtful considerations of the prospects for China’s future economic growth. This book is highly recommended.’
– Clem Tisdell, The University of Queensland, Australia
Contents: Introduction Part I: The Traditional Economy 1. Population 2. Agriculture 3. Urbanization and Traditional Industry 4. Trade 5. Social Structure 6. Why China Failed to Industrialize Part II: Transition to Modern Economic Growth 7. Growth of Foreign Trade and Investment 8. The Rise of Modern Sectors and their Impact 9. Why Japan Succeeded and China Failed Part III: Modern Economic Growth Under Socialism 10. The Soviet Model 11. The Great Leap Forward 12. The Great Famine 13. The Cultural Revolution 14. Socialist Modern Economic Growth: The Outcome Part IV: Reform and Growth Acceleration 15. The Reforms 16. Towards a New Growth Strategy 17. The Rise of China 18. China’s Modern Economic Growth: Retrospect and Prospect References Index