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Ken Pomeranz: Land Rights and Economic Development in China: a Long-Term Perspective

April 6, 2011, 5 p.m.

Blum Hall plaza level

University of California, Berkeley

Kenneth Pomeranz is UCI Chancellor's Professor of History at UC-Irvine. He received his PhD in 1988 from Yale University and has published extensively on the modern world economy and on social and economic development in modern China, including the following books: The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy in 2000, The World that Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present (with Steven Topic) in 1999, and The Making of a Hinterland: State, Society, and Economy in Inland North China, 1853-1937 in 1993.

Cosponsored by the Blum Center for Developing Economies/Global Poverty and Practice Minor and presented with the support of the Institute of International Studies.

Abstract: Looked at in comparative perspective, among the most striking features of Qing political economy are the combination of highly commercialized agriculture with the strength of peasant land use rights – both through smallholding and through various forms of secure tenancy – and the very small share of the population dependent on wage-earning. This paper begins by analyzing some reasons for this pattern, focusing on the intersection of customary land rights, agricultural practices and family formation in China’s wealthiest regions. Most of the paper then traces its long- run consequences – for urbanization, internal trade, migration, environmental change, and fiscal policy – and compares them with those in other parts of the world. It argues that the intersection of these institutions with China’s resource endowments created a distinct political economy which produced considerable agricultural and commercial dynamism, but not industrialization. It then shows that, though severely disrupted in the 19th and early 20th century, patterns derived from these basic conditions continued to shape Chinese economic development thereafter, and even into the present era of post-Mao reform.

Keywords: China, economic development, property rights, tenancy, water, regional disparities, Yangzi Delta.


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Robin Townley

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