DP15835 Ideology and the Contours of Economic Changes in Modern China during 1850-1950

Author(s): Debin Ma
Publication Date: February 2021
Keyword(s): Ideology, institutions, Meiji China, Qing China, Western impact and Chinese response
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15835

What explains economic changes or lack-thereof in modern China during 1850-1950? This paper highlights the critical role of ideology and ideological change induced as a response to Western impact following Qing China's forced opening during the mid-19th century. I argue that Imperial Qing's highly centralized and absolutist political regimes and traditional dominance in a China-centred world order have led to a closure of mind to new intellectual resources and initial failure to recognize impending crisis in the new world order. By laying out the quantitative profile of Chinese economic change during 1850-1950 and reviewing the main historiography, this paper builds a new analytical framework linking ideology with economic changes. It delineates three phases of economic changes in light of the specific timing of intellectual and ideological transformation during this period and embed our narrative with two specific cases of commercial and financial developments.