Chinese Capitalisms: An Introduction

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When Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776, China was under the rule of Emperor Qianlong (reigned 1735–96). At the time, the country was perhaps exuding the last of its premodern splendor. For despite the rapid ascendance of Europe in the areas of navigation science, military skills, and production technology, China still managed to dazzle George Macartney, head of the British delegation, when he paid a court visit to Emperor Qianlong in 1793. Taken on a trip around the garden of the Emperor’s summer palace, Macartney remarked that the 40 or 50 palaces and pavilions he visited were “all furnished in the richest manner … that our presents must shrink from the comparison and hide their diminished heads” (Robbins 1908, p. 309). But it was not only material civilization that impressed Macartney. Reporting on the ceremony of his reception by the Emperor he wrote that the “commanding feature . was that calm dignity, that sober pomp of Asiatic greatness, which European refinements have not yet attained” (Robbins 1908, p. 307).1 At this time Europeans had also come to appreciate China’s civilization at a more subtle level. According to Michael Adas (cited in Arrighi 2007, p. 3), China was a source of inspiration for the leading figures of the European Enlightenment. Leibniz, Voltaire, and Quesnay, among others, looked to China for moral instruction, guidance in institutional development, and supporting evidence for their advocacy of causes as varied as benevolent absolutism, meritocracy, and an agriculturally based national economy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChinese Capitalisms
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical Emergence and Political Implications
EditorsYin-wah Chu
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780230251359
ISBN (Print)9780230576490, 9781349366378
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameInternational Political Economy Series

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese Communist Party
  • Production Network
  • Filial Piety
  • Socialist Country
  • Capitalist Development


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