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The emergence of the Indian and Chinese economic powerhouses: historical and institutional perspectives

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Barbara Roe.

This comparison of China and India asks the big question: how is it that after centuries of “alleged” retardation China and now India are emerging powerfully and pulling ahead of the Western economies. The theoretical context here is the debate on Great Divergence promoted by Ken Pomeranz and critically opposed by David Faure and a host of other Sinologist. Pomeranz, in his famous treatise The Great Divergence [2000], believed that, prior to Britain’s industrial revolution, both China and Europe revealed little difference in economic structure or per capita income and only cheap coal and imperialism and access to land intensive production provided a leap. David Faure has argued against this on the grounds of the immense regional diversity of China and its impressive pre-modern and modern economic growth. Sanjay Subramanyam also shows how India has “traversed” from a “mosaic of civilizations” to an internal diversity endogenously spun. Timur Kuran, however, following in the footsteps of Pomeranz, has grappled with this Great Divergence debate, arguing that the economic decline of the Middle East is related to Islamic capitalism and its ethical constraints. I have, in a modest way, argued that in fact Southern Thailand, a resource rich area, revealed a vibrant form of ethical Islamic capitalism, while its handicap was Western multinationals such as BP and their associational links to powerful Thai elites. With these Asian Powerhouses of India and China, I was inspired by Douglas North to focus on the economic institutions and in particular the institution of law to understand this diversity in economic growth between both India and China.

This talk is part of the Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars series.

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