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Frontiers of Economics in China

Front Econ Chin    2011, Vol. 6 Issue (4) : 507-534     DOI: 10.1007/s11459-011-0145-1
research-article |
Why Was China Trapped in an Agrarian Society? An Economic Geographical Approach to the Needham Puzzle
Guanzhong James Wen()
Department of Economics, Trinity College, Hartford CT06106, USA
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Abstract

This paper argues that before the world started to globalize, the differences in the geographical endowments that different population faced were the most important constraints to their long-term production and consumption. The paper uses this central hypothesis to explain the sharp contrast between the flourishing Song and the stagnant Ming and Qing. During the Song dynasty, despite the fact that China lost a significant amount of arable land to invading nomads as its population peaked, China witnessed a higher urbanization level, more prosperous commerce and international trade, and an explosion of technical inventions and institutional innovations. However, after having significantly improved its man-to-land ratio in the period after the Song China only found itself induced deeper into the agrarian trap, resulting in reduced urbanization, withering foreign trade, a declining division of labor, and stagnant in technology.

Keywords Needham puzzle      geographical endowment      Heckscher-Ohlin model     
Corresponding Authors: Guanzhong James Wen,Email:james.wen@trincoll.edu   
Issue Date: 05 December 2011
 Cite this article:   
Guanzhong James Wen. Why Was China Trapped in an Agrarian Society? An Economic Geographical Approach to the Needham Puzzle[J]. Front Econ Chin, 2011, 6(4): 507-534.
 URL:  
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fec/EN/10.1007/s11459-011-0145-1
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fec/EN/Y2011/V6/I4/507
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