Commercialization has been determined to be the source of increasing agricultural productivity and of higher rural incomes. This book reinterprets the impact of accelerated commercialization of Chinese agriculture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on the growth of the rural economy of Central and Eastern China. The author demonstrates that the prices of domestic agricultural products rose as China's agricultural markets became integrated with the international economy. These higher prices, in combination with increasing domestic demand and fueled by the growth of the urban sector, provided the incentive for increased rural household production that led to increased specialization in rural production. He estimates that between the 1890s and the 1930s, agricultural output rose at an annual rate roughly twice that of estimated population growth. While redressing the historical assessments of the pre-1949 economy, this book offers rich perspective on the enormous costs that enforced self-sufficiency and the restrictive commercial policies of the People's Republic inflicted on the rural sector between the 1950s and the late 1970s.
"The research is well documented, incorporating new data as well as providing a reinterpretation of more traditional sources used in earlier studies. Brandt's interpretation differs radically from the prevailing views despite considerable overlap in data sources...While Brandt's book is well documented, it is his interpretation of these data that wil stimulate debate. Brandt's arguments, reflecting some new trends in rural economic development theory, and a meticulous use of available sources, constitute a genuine contribution to Chinese economic history." Gregory Veeck, Journal of Asian and African Studies "Brandt's methodologically sophisticated interpretation therefore is an important addition to the debates in Chinese agrarian history and shows the power as well as the limitations of the econometric approach." Robert Y. Eng, American Historical Review