China’s Historical GDP Share in The World

An American Nobel winner claimed that by 2040 China will be the biggest economy on the earth and he also said that China had been the biggest economy on the earth for the last two thousand years. Now let’s take a look at China’s historical GDP share in the world:

Qin Dynasty 秦朝 221–206 BC  
GDP per capita: Unknow
The share of Qing dynasty and the dynasties before it are too aged to calculate, no relevant data is available, so we can only start from the Han dynasty.

Han dynasty 汉朝 (206 BC–220 AD)  
GDP per capita: $450
Han Dynasty accounted for 26% of the global wealth, at that time the Roman Empire dominated western world. while Han Dynasty is the economic center of the eastern world.

Tang Dynasty 唐朝 618 – 907 AD
GDP per capita:$480
China’s feudal society gets to its peak in Tang Dynasty, which accounted for 58% of the world GDP, the empire is very rich and powerful comparing with other countries of the same time. In the western world the second Eastern Roman Empire accounted for only 9% of the world GDP.  The third Arab Empire accounted for just 7% of the world’s GDP. The fourth Ancient India accounted for 7% of the world’s GDP. Tang Dynasty could be described as a dominance among many great ancient countries.

Song Dynasty 宋朝 960-1279 AD
GDP per capita:US$2,280
The  entire Song Dynasty accounted for 80% of the world’s GDP, The share should be the highest among Chinese history mainly due to a booming commerce, foreign trade and technological advancement, all these made Song the richest dynasty in Chinese history. After a thousand years, Westerners said: “a thousand years ago, China’s  economic aggregate accounted for 80% of the world at that time.” After a thousand years Chinese people said in shock: “how is this possible?” Western historians described its wealth and prosperity like this, the living conditions of a porter at the gate of the capital Dongjing city was even better than a Western monarch of the same period. Song is a classic dynasty that hide the wealth into the people

Yuan Dynasty 元朝 1271-1368 AD
It is difficult to calculate economic data of Yuan Dynasty, its GDP is estimated to account for about 30% -35% of the world according to the foreign research institutions.

Ming Dynasty 明朝 1368–1644 AD
GDP per capita:US$600
In the period of Wanli of the Ming Dynasty, its total wealth accounted for 55% of the world GDP. The average share was 45% during the whole Ming Dynasty, but the late Ming Dynasty rapidly declined for famine and war.

Qing Dynasty 清朝 1644-1922 AD
GDP per capita:US$600
Qing Dynasty accounted for 35% -10% of the World GDP, the economy experienced big recession after 1840 Opium War, large amounts of silver were used  to pay indemnities to invaders and outflowed at the same time, causing its GDP rapidly falling from 35% in period of Kangxi and Qianlong to less than 10% in Jiaqing period.

People’s Republic of China 中华人民共和国 1949-
GDP per capita:US$5414
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in China was worth 7298.1 billion US dollars in 2011, according to a report published by the World Bank. The GDP value of China is roughly equivalent to 9.48 percent of the world economy.

8 Responses

  1. Philippe Van Loock says:

    I don’t want to go into the discussion in detail, but just two things I would to add:
    1. I believe Angus Maddison did a terrific job, despite the difficulties of attaining historical data.
    2. As I am from Belgium, I just wanted to add the great work that Belgian born Paul Bairoch did on similar data.

  2. Dr. K G Karmakar says:

    Pls. Read The seminal work of Prof. Angus Maddison , the famous British economist who has calculated the world GDP from 1 AD till 2030 AD. The combined GDP of India and China never exceeded 50% in any of the periods studied. And after the Fall of Constantinople, due to the Renaissance era in Europe, the European economies picked up and in the colonial period, the economies of India and China dwindled mainly because of Trade and the Industrial Revolution. It would be useful to refer to this book rather than make fanciful claims not backed up by data.

  3. all hail china says:


  4. bigben_usa says:

    Historical GDP data are so difficult to get a hold of and depends on assumptions being used. Prior to industrial revolution, GDP per capita was not always the most accurate measurement. For most part, imperial China (prior to the 19th century) was among and often times the most sophisticated economic power for most of two millennia. It went though agriculture revolution well before Europe did. It also benefited from the scale and efficiency of a unified state (a few periods of fragmentation notwithstanding). Many studies have shown that the Han dynasty period was pretty much equal to the Romans at the time. Imperial China was also active in trade, from the earlier land Silk Road to the maritime Silk Route peaking in the early Ming dynasty. The Song dynasty was generally seen as the first state to experience proto-industrialization but whether it accounted for 80% of global GDP as stated in this article is pretty questionable. Often overlooked in the western world was the expansive Tang dynasty (“golden age”) where some historians pointed out that it might have accounted for 50% of global output.

  5. ajay says:

    completely biased no historic evidence “80% of world economy” thank god they did not tell 120 %”.of course i knew chineese are weak in mathematics but never knew they are this weak.
    india and china both accounted for 50% of world economy while india having the highest economy for more than 1500 years..the article says ‘westerners’ and ‘foreign institution’ but provides no more information about them.a british economist angus maddison calculated the gdp of world and individual is the list.

    • AvengerMoJo says:

      I’m wondering the same thing … how do anyone “discover” or “calculate” the historical global GPD? I don’t think currency work so silver should be something they can use as a reference, but that is also related the trading rather then GDP anyway … Totally confused. It would be nice to know how they calculate that.

    • shhsskjshs says:

      all prove indians are shits,so you are

    • Tak says:

      You cited one research and this article cited another. It does not make your claim to be any more accurate than this article’s.

      Not to mention you are quoting Wikipedia… the dumping ground of debatable, if not outright suspicious information.

      All I sense is jealousy and scorn due to the current state of India in comparison to China and the longstanding animosity towards your north-eastern neighbor. Thank goodness you are not the only example of your people I get to sample, because you’d be a poor representative for them.

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