China in 1842 and China Today

In the years before the First Opium War, China was one of the world’s largest economies, accounting for nearly a third of the world’s total production according to Chinese economist Justin Yifu Lin. From that peak, China began an inexorable slide over the next century, and when Mao proclaims the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China’s GDP has shrunk to just 5% of the world’s total. China stagnated and watched the rest of the world blow past her.

Wealth and Power begins by looking at the first moments of China’s stagnation, the height of the Qing Dynasty under the Qianlong Emperor and the first meetings between China and the growing Western powers.

China's GDP/Capita over time

Data from the work of Angus Maddison.