Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David Gordon

Subject Categories

Asian Studies | Economic History | Economic Theory | Growth and Development | Political Economy


Economic History, China, Economic Development, Industrialization, Human Capital


By looking at the historical rise of modern China, starting with the end of the First Opium War (1842) through to the start of the war with Japan (1937), and then from the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms (1979) to the present, this work reveals the striking similarities between the earlier and the later periods of capitalist development. If the country had not been able to draw on the deep-rooted knowledge and skills which originated in Shanghai and the port cities in the mid-nineteenth century, and instead pursued only uninformed free market principles without the training to make these work, the outcome would have been very different.

It is then each country’s unique culture and experience that shapes not only its physical, but especially its human capital. It is this which determines its ability to successfully enter the modern industrial and technological world. But it was, and is, not replicable. The country has no universal panacea to offer. It is not possible to create a global theory out of its particular historical circumstances. It is, however, possible to understand from the Chinese experience the importance of developing individual strategies for countries based on their unique strengths. Simply put, while it is possible to create practical plans to achieve economic progress, this is best done on a case by case basis.



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