Wei LiFollow

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Toshi Kii - Chair

Second Advisor

Jenny Heying Zhan

Third Advisor

Charles Gallagher

Fourth Advisor

Douglas Reynolds

Fifth Advisor

Kim Reimann


The case of late Qing China is of great importance to theories of economic development. This study examines the question of why China¡¯s industrialization was slow between 1865 and 1895 as compared to contemporary Japan¡¯s. Industrialization is measured on four dimensions: sea transport, railway, communications, and the cotton textile industry. I trace the difference between China¡¯s and Japan¡¯s industrialization to government leadership, which includes three aspects: direct governmental investment, government policies at the macro-level, and specific measures and actions to assist selected companies and industries. Compared to the Meiji government, the Chinese government¡¯s role in all of the three aspects was insufficient. Furthermore, I explore why the Chinese government did not lead China¡¯s economic development efficiently. The Manchu question¡ªManchu rule of Qing China and Manchu supremacy over other ethnic groups¡ªtriggered ethnic rebellions between the early 1850s and the early 1870s, which severely undermined the government in economic, political, and military terms. Ethnic rebellions in turn were caused by the government¡¯s unequal ethnic policies that had established an ethnic hierarchy in the empire. Moreover, the government spent a disproportionate amount of funds on the Manchu stipend to financially support the group compared to the government¡¯s investment in modern industries. The Manchu question surfaced after 1895 in the sense that pro-dynastic reforms attempted to deal with it. The 1911 Revolution eventually brought the Manchu question to an end.

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