IZA DP No. 13940: China's Great Boom as a Historical Process
Beginning in the late 1970s, China's economy delivered the largest growth spurt in recorded history. Striking discontinuity between recent outcomes and the economic experience of the prior 200 years invites portrayal of recent events as a "China miracle" that requires neither economic nor historical analysis. This overlooks deep institutional constraints arising from authoritarian rule and its supporting elite networks and fails to recognize the link between central government weakness and the origins of the recent boom. In both the pre-1949 treaty ports and in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, the retreat of central control enabled episodes of economic openness and dynamism built upon 'bottom up' initiative and decentralized innovation. Historic legacies that shape political structures and individual behavior will continue to influence China's economic trajectory.