As an economic historian, my research interest centers on the long-run economic growth of China and East Asia. My Phd dissertation focused on the comparative paths of modernization of China and Japan through a case study of the production and export of silk during 1850-1936. Since then, the scope of my research extends to encompass growth, development and industrialization as well as political, legal and intellectual history, often placing Chinese developments in a comparative and global context. For the past two decades, I have actively engaged in the Great Divergence debate on why the Industrial Revolution occurred in England but not in China or elsewhere, one of the most important and fascinating questions in global history today.
My research adopts both qualitative and quantitative approches. It combines the employment of multi-lingual sources, the construction of large scale data sets culled from primary sources with the application and development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks to explain long-term economic and institutional trajectories. Although the bulk of my works focus on China and East Asia, I have had long and productive collaborations with a wide array of scholars, both mainstream economic historians and experts across different areas and disciplines. My research has been published in academic journals, edited books and book chapters, in English as well as in Chinese and Japanese, across a variety of disciplines such as economics, economic history, accounting history and area studies. In collaboration with Loren Brandt (University of Toronto) and Thomas Rawski (University of Pittsburgh), I have published an extended review article that offers a comprehensive reassessment of modern Chinese economic history in the Journal of Economic Literature in 2014. Recently, I have co-edited with Richard von Glahn of UCLA a two volume Cambridge Economic History of China, the first of its kind on Chinese economic history in the prestigious Cambridge history series. The two massive volumes bring together leading economic historians on China from around the world and contain over 40 chapters providing the most comprehensive coverage of Chinese economic history from prehistoric times to the contemporary era.
Cambridge Economic History of China (two volumes forthcoming Feb. 2022)
China's rise as the world's second-largest economy surely is the most dramatic development in the global economy since the year 2000. Volume II, which spans China's two turbulent centuries from 1800, charts this wrenching process of an ancient empire being transformed to re-emerge as a major world power. This volume for the first time brings together the fruits of pioneering international scholarship in all dimensions of economic history to provide an authoritative and comprehensive overview of this tumultuous and dramatic transformation.