Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study


Unfolding the Turbulent Century:
A Reconstruction of China’s Economic Development, 184—1912


This paper reconstructs China’s economic development between 1840 and 1912 with an estimation of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It provides for the first time a time series of GDP (per capita) for the late Qing Dynasty (1644—1911), based on sectoral output and value added, in current as well as in constant prices. The present estimation of per capita GDP in the late Qing period comes out higher than previous estimation, but it still suggests low average levels of Chinese living standards. The economy during the late Qing Empire was characterized by a large and growing agricultural sector and displayed only minor structural changes. Only in the beginning of the twentieth century did the economy start to show signs of growth.

Report No.: HIAS-E-29
Author(s): Ye Ma
Herman de Jong
Affiliation: University of Groningen
Issued Date: May 2016
Keywords: China; GDP; 19th century; living standards
JEL: E01, N15, O11