Populations of China and India Since 1500

This graph shows the respective populations of the two most populous countries in the world, India and China. In 1500, India had a slightly larger population (110M: 103M). From this point, India's population growth shows a steadier, more even rise, while China's rise is more dynamic and volatile, dropping twice on this graph. Between 1600 and 1700 China's population falls from 160M to 138M, and between 1820 and 1870, it fell from 381M to 358M.

Using a macro-empirical approach, this pattern suggests that China's economy was organized on a higher level and more dynamic than that of India, and thus better able to grow. Even the imposition of an efficient system of British control over India and the early introduction of railways was unable to change this difference.

The two drops in Chinese population reinforce this thesis because the breakdown of higher and more complex systems result in greater mortality. The first drop reflects the impact of the Manchu conquest of Ming China in the 17th century, while the second drop was caused mainly by the massive Taiping Rebellion and civil war of the mid 19th century. None of the major transitions in Indian history, from the rise of the Mughal Empire and its collapse to the British conquest and wars and rebellions, show up on this graph as drops in population.

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