Chinese agriculture remains central to our understanding of China’s long-term Chinese economic growth trajectory and the Great Divergence debate. In this Quantitative History Webinar, Debin Ma of Hitotsubashi University revisits the debates of “involution” in the context of incorporating agriculture seasonality. China’s (or East Asian) highly crop-based agricultural economy generates sharply differentiated seasonable demand for agricultural labor across the year and leads to the rise of agricultural and handicraft side-employment and household production. Without taking proper account of this important intertemporal labor re-allocation mechanism, the “involution” thesis often posits a Malthusian diminishing return in Chinese agriculture due to deteriorating land-labor ratio. Debin Ma and his co-author use empirical evidence from 19-20th century Chinese (and Japanese) agriculture to demonstrate that this labor relocation across seasons contributes to a Boserupian type of growth with rising commercialization and population density, but not necessarily urbanization, rising productivity and structural change. However, they argue that ultimately it was industrialization and the opening-up of markets, developments that occurred outside agriculture that pulled China (or Japan) out of the “involutionary” path and took China onto a path of modern economic growth.
Debin's co-author: Kaixiang Peng (Henan University)
Live on Zoom on
May 26, 2021 (Wed) 09:45 Hong Kong/Beijing/Singapore | 10:45 Tokyo | 11:45 Sydney
May 25, 2021 (Tues) 18:45 Los Angeles | 20:45 Chicago | 21:45 New York
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With discussants: Kenneth Pomeranz, FBA (Chicago) and Osamu Saito (Hitotsubashi)
This webinar is a joint event with Economic Research Seminar Series hosted by the Institute of Economic Research of Hitotsubashi University.
Photo credit: Permanent agriculture in China, Korea and Japan (1900), Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons
About the Quantitative History Webinar Series
The Quantitative History Webinar Series, convened by Professor Zhiwu Chen and Dr. Chicheng Ma of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), aims to provide researchers, teachers and students with an online intellectual platform to keep up to date with the latest research in the field, promoting the dissemination of research findings and interdisciplinary use of quantitative methods in historical research. The Series is co-organized by the International Society for Quantitative History, HKU Business School, and the Asia Global Institute (AGI).
Professor Zhiwu Chen
Dr. Chicheng Ma
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