Chapter 1

Wealth and Power: Introduction 1794-2013

In the following chapters, explore a "dramatis personae of eleven iconic intellectuals and leaders, reformers and revolutionaries" who have shaped China's transformation from the "sick man of the east" to a global economic and political powerhouse.

1842  Welcome to the Wealth and Power Book Project

Welcome! This site explores the themes of the book Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century by Orville Schell and John Delury. We’ve tried to capture some of the basic ideas of the book here, while providing an archive of interesting sources available online to enhance our understanding of the forces underpinning China’s rapid economic rise over the last 30 years. Enjoy.

1842  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.

1842  A Wealthy State and a Strong Army

The title of Wealth and Power derives from the Chinese phrase fuguo qiangbing (富国强兵), “a wealthy state and a strong army.” This saying, which originates in the ancient Chinese philosophical school of Legalism, reemerged in modern China as a mantra for reformers. Fuguo qiangbing, often shortened to fuqiang (富强, “wealth and power”), reverberates through the words of China’s modern leaders, who, disillusioned with China’s progress under a rigid Confucian system, began looking to new models.