For Teachers: Teachers' Guide

China and Europe: 1500-1800

* This section of the website corresponds to the 1450-1750 unit of Advanced Placement World History


Traditional arguments about European economic growth have suggested that Europe was unique in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but Pomeranz and Wong suggest that this interpretation is wrong.

  • Between 1000 and 1500, China was the world’s most dynamic economy. This dynamism was not matched by any parts of Europe until after 1500.
  • But as Europe’s economy began to expand after 1500, regions of China’s economy also continued to expand. A comparison of the lower Yangzi region of China and England in 1750 suggests that the two regions, roughly equal in geographic size, were still roughly economically equal.
  • Between 1500 and 1800 China had many traits typically associated with a modern state: acceptance of a market-based economy, reliance on the use of contracts, specialization of tasks, state oversight of food production and supply, and encouragement of competitive economic markets.
  • China’s participation in the global silver trade between 1400 and 1800 confirms the dynamism of China’s economy and shows that it not isolated in this period.
  • By 1800, Europeans began to move away from exporting silver to China and began to trade opium instead.
  • Under the Qing dynasty in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, China’s size and population expanded significantly and in ways that would eventually create some significant ecological shifts in China.