Economics and Policy in Modern China
The Making of the Human Sciences in China: Historical and Conceptual Foundations, edited by Howard Chiang (Forthcoming)
23 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018
Date Written: Jul 2018
This chapter argues that involvement or the desire to be involved in policy making was the single most important force shaping the development and Sinicization of modern Chinese economics. The Sino-Japanese term for economics jingji (J: keizai) is an abbreviation of jingshi jimin (“ordering the world and saving the people”), and captures aptly the aims of pre-modern Chinese economic thinkers. Western-trained Chinese economists in the twentieth century did not simply apply the theories and models that they acquired from U.S. and European institutions; they also built upon their sensitivity to economic change to build a more detailed and empirical picture of the Chinese economy, with the aim of achieving policy influence, especially during the Nanjing Decade (1927-37). For this reason – despite their radically different intellectual backgrounds – there was much commonality between capitalist and Marxist economists in the twentieth century across the 1949 divide. Similarly, the chapter argues that the shared policy orientation of late imperial economic thinkers on the one hand and professional economists on the other allows the historian to contextualize the role of Western economics in the longer tradition of Chinese political economy as an area of intellectual inquiry shaped by the goal of improving the people’s livelihoods.
Keywords: history of economics, history of human sciences, economics and policy
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