Measuring China’s performance in the world economy: A benchmark comparison between the economies of China and the UK in the early twentieth century




China, early 20th century, industrialization, labor productivity


This study draws attention to China’s industrialisation before WWII and gives a new starting point to review early industrial development in history. This study provides the first estimates of purchasing power parity (PPP) converters for the early 1910s between China and the UK. Statistical indicators, comparative output and labour productivity, are then calculated to address queries regarding the relative level that China’s early manufacturing had reached at the end of the Qing Empire (1911) –after half a century’s attempt to catch up with the West since the 1860s. By comparing the new 1910s benchmark with that of the 1930s, this study also for the first time presents the development of China’s early manufacturing in the inter-war period. We find that the growth in the inter-war period narrowed the gap with the early industrialised economies; however, the improvement was not unique for pre-war China, especially compared with the pace of industrialisation in Meiji Japan. The new benchmark also helps to show the regional pattern of pre-war China’s industrial performance.


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How to Cite

Ma, Ye, Herman de Jong, and Yi Xu. 2022. “Measuring China’s Performance in the World Economy: A Benchmark Comparison Between the Economies of China and the UK in the Early Twentieth Century”. Revista De Historia Industrial — Industrial History Review 31 (85):11-50.