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Government As An Obstacle To Industrialization: The Case Of Nineteenth-Century China

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Chapter Summary

This paper presents a brief summary of recent findings by a number of historians to the effect that the reputed official hostility to commerce has been greatly exaggerated. Many ch'ing government officials not only understood commerce, but were deeply involved in it themselves. The standard view of Chinese commerce used to be that it was a despised profession. If the imperial government of china was an obstacle to industrialization, it was more because of what it did not do than because of harmful efforts which it did undertake. China provides a test of the proposition that a government in a late-developing nation not only can, but must, take steps to aid economic growth if the country is to avoid a long slow process of institutional change prior to industrialization. Key areas where the government must take on major responsibilities are in the fields of education and banking reform.

Keywords: banking reform; Chinese commerce; education; imperial government; industrialization



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