Beyond Modernity: Rethinking Economic Change and Periodization in Modern Chinese History

Conférence de Margherita Zanasi (Louisiana State University), dans le cadre du séminaire de Xavier Paulès, David Serfass et Delphine Spicq, « La Chine républicaine (1912-1949) : nouvelles approches historiques ».


imageThis paper explores the limits of adopting a modernization approach to the study of economic change in Qing China. Recent works have successfully “decentered” developmental determinism by questioning both the uniqueness of the European experience and the imposition on non-Western countries of derivative chronologies of modernity. They have especially focused on tracing the existence in China of those elements that characterized the modernization experience in Europe, above all the introduction of pro-market and pro-consumption policies. This approach, however, had the unintended consequence of keeping the historical narrative focused on the European experience, overshadowing elements that played a uniquely important role in China, such as population growth.

In the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, under mounting pressure from population growth, pro-market and pro-consumption ideas and policies that had culminated in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1711 –1799) began to lose favor. This reversal marked the beginning of the uneasy relationship with the free market that came to characterize modern China. In China, therefore, the fortunes of laissez faire thought and policies followed a very different path than in Europe. They emerged almost a hundred year earlier and came later to be considered unsuitable to face newly emerging problems. In China, modernity actually arrived in the form of an increasingly interventionist state.


Mardi 31 mai 2016, 13h-15h


EHESS, salle 7
105 bd Raspail – 75006 Paris

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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