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Chinese Regions in the Great Divergence: Provincial Gross Domestic Product per Capita, 1873–1918


Australian Economic History Review

Published online on


We construct 1912/18 Chinese provincial gross domestic product per capita from primary sources and project cross‐sections for 1873 and 1893. The results fit the historical record. We hypothesise that regionally specific conflicts have a role to play in explaining differential growth rates, and that geography, governance, and sectoral structures explain relative income‐level rankings. China's richest provinces matched Europe's poorest. A divergence did indeed occur, but our estimates show that at a broader economic level, it was perhaps not as dramatic as some of the literature implies.