Margherita ZanasiDec 3, 2021
Economic Thought in Modern China
Market and Consumption, c.1500–1937
Cambridge University Press 2020
In Economic Thought in Modern China: Market and Consumption, c.1500–1937 (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Margherita Zanasi argues that basic notions of a free market economy emerged in China a century and half earlier than in Europe. In response to the commercial revolutions of the late 1500s, Chinese intellectuals and officials called for the end of state intervention in the market, recognizing its power to self-regulate. They also noted the elasticity of domestic demand and production, arguing in favour of ending long-standing rules against luxury consumption, an idea that emerged in Europe in the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Zanasi challenges Eurocentric theories of economic modernization as well as the assumption that European Enlightenment thought was unique in its ability to produce innovative economic ideas. She instead establishes a direct connection between observations of local economic conditions and the formulation of new theories, revealing the unexpected flexibility of the Confucian tradition and its accommodation of seemingly unorthodox ideas.
Margherita Zanasi is Professor of Chinese History at Louisiana State University. She has published widely on different aspects of modern China's history, including her first book Saving the Nation: Economic Modernity in Republican China (University of Chicago Press, 2005). She also serves as the editor of the journal Twentieth Century China.
Ghassan Moazzin is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong. He works on the economic and business history of 19th and 20th century China, with a particular focus on the history of foreign banking, international finance and electricity in modern China. His first book, Foreign Banks and Global Finance in Modern China: Banking on the Chinese Frontier, 1870–1919, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.