China's Economy and its Growth in the Very Long-Term

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Kent Deng SAR 5.17


This course is available on the BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History with Economics and BSc in Economics and Economic History. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

The course explores the main aspects China's economic growth in the very long term from c.221 BC to the present day. It begins with a survey of general models/themes commonly used in studying Chinese economic history, followed by particular issues: the formation, expansion and the function of the Chinese empire; Confucian values and state economic polices; property rights; peasantry and peasant economy; proto-industrialisation; commerce and trade; science and technology; demographic fluctuations; living standards; external shocks and foreign influence; internal rebellions and revolutions; reforms and modernisation.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term, with 1-2 revision sessions in the Summer Term.

This course includes a reading week in the 6th calendar week of Michaelmas and Lent Term respectively.

Students are expected to do prior readings and to make presentations on a regular basis.


Indicative reading

A full reading list and course outline are available on Moodle. The following readings provide indication of the scope and nature of materials used in the course: K G Deng, 'A Critical Survey of Recent Research in of Chinese Economic History', Economic History Review (2000); J K Fairbank, Chinese Thought and Institutions (1957); M Elvin, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (1973); C A Ronan, The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China (1978-86); J Y Lin, 'The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution did not Originate in China', Economic Development and Cultural Change (1995); G W Skinner, The City in Late Imperial China (1977); J Lee & F Wang, One Quarter of Humanity (1999); K Pomeranz, The Great Divergence, Europe, China and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2000); A Watson, Economic Reform and Social Change in China (1992); R B Wong, China Transformed (1997); K Deng ‘Imperial China under the Song and Late Qing’, in Andrew Monson and Walter Scheidel (eds), Fiscal Regimes and Political Economy of Premodern States,  Cambridge University Press (2015): ch. 10 (pp. 308–42). Deng, Kent and Zheng, Lucy (2015) Economic restructuring and demographic growth: demystifying growth and development in Northern Song China, 960–1127 Economic History Review, 68 (4). 1107-1131.


Essay (15%, 2000 words) in the MT.
Essay (15%, 2000 words) in the LT.
Take-home assessment (70%) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills