China has been poorer than Europe longer than the party thinks

XI JINPING, China’s president, likes to talk of his “Chinese dream”. He says it involves “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. To him this means that under the Communist Party, China will again be the world’s richest, most powerful country as it was before the “hundred years of humiliation”—the economic disasters and territorial grabs by foreigners during the century after the first opium war of 1839-42. By extension the party’s legitimacy will rest on this rejuvenation. But what if China was not the world’s richest country before 1839? What if it has lagged behind Europe not for 175 years but for 675? Would Mr Xi’s Chinese dream be so compelling?

A new study by Stephen Broadberry of Oxford University, Hanhui Guan of Peking University and David Daokui Li of Tsinghua University in Beijing argues that China has indeed lagged behind Europe for centuries. It compares levels of GDP per person in China, England, Holland, Italy and Japan since around...Continue reading

Source: China

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