Pomeranz's Theory Analysis

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This section begins by revisiting Kenneth Pomeranz’s argument in The Great Divergence which attempts to answer the question about why industrial revolution did not occur in China in the Ming/Qing Dynasty. His studies were largely based on comparing the economic developments in China and Europe before the great divergence happened, in particular the Yangzi River Delta in China and the core regions of England. As Pomeranz (2000) put it, these two places were similar in technological levels, functioning Smithian markets, population controls and capital accumulation, and thus none of these factors could have a significant impact on the great divergence. Therefore, he argued that the readily accessibility of coal in England had played a crucial …show more content…
In the “high level equilibrium trap” that he proposed, Elvin (1973) highlighted the difficulty of technological innovation had caused the stagnation in China’s economic. In his theory, the rapid population growth in China in the medieval period created a big pressure on resources particularly land that the technological advancement was just to keep pace with the population increase. As a result, the per capita income was fixed. On the basis of considerable levels of scientific knowledge, advanced commercial development and the abundant production in the market, technological breakthrough still failed to occur in China. To answer this question, Elvin (1973) argued that the unfavorable man-to-land ratio had contributed to China’s stagnation in its growth potential, because the technology development was only quantitative rather than qualitative. Apart from his argument of high man-to-land ratio that served as a barrier to the growth of China, Elvin (1973) also mentioned the shortage of metals like copper, iron and silver that is essential for money could hinder the possibility of adopting the mechanical devices. In addition, the cotton industry was also hurt because the land was used for growing crops, thus there was no new sources of raw cotton. The switch of key area for manufacturing of cloth is also highlighted in Elvin’s theory. At that time, the most productive region in China was Yangtze River and south China in general, which had relatively abundant labor compared with the north. Once the manufacture moved to the south, the abundance labor with the flexible labor supply in rural area reduced the demand for the labor-saving technology (Elvin, 1973). The key argument that emerges from Elvin’s theory is centered on the increase in population, which not only results in the low and even declining labor cost but also prevents the capital accumulation because the majority of producers

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