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How Social Darwinism Made Modern China: Bibliography and Endnotes

Main article: How Social Darwinism Made Modern China PRIMARY BIBLIOGRAPHY Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2012) Why Nations Fail Robert C. Allen, “A Review of Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World,” Journal of Economic Literature (2008) pp. 946-973 John Lossing Buck (1964) Land Utilization in China Tommy […]

Main article:
How Social Darwinism Made Modern China


Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2012) Why Nations Fail

Robert C. Allen, “A Review of Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World,” Journal of Economic Literature (2008) pp. 946-973

John Lossing Buck (1964) Land Utilization in China

Tommy Bengtsson, Cameron Campbell, and James Z. Lee (2004) Life Under Pressure: Mortality and Living Standards in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900

T’ung-Tsu Ch’u (1965) Law and Society in Traditional China

Gregory Clark (2007) A Farewell to Alms

Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending (2009) The 10,000 Year Explosion

Isabel and David Crook (1959) Revolution in a Chinese Village: Ten Mile Inn

Mark Elvin (1973) The Pattern of the Chinese Past

John King Fairbank (1948/1979) The United States and China

Susan B. Hanley (1997) Everyday Things in Premodern Japan

William Hinton (1966) Fanshen

Ping-Ti Ho, “Aspects of Social Mobility in China, 1368-1911,” Comparative Studies in Society and History (Jun. 1959) pp. 330-359

Ping-Ti Ho (1971) The Ladder of Success in Imperial China

Philip C.C. Huang, Lynda Schaeffer Bell, and Kathy Lemons Walker (1978) Chinese Communists and Rural Society, 1927-1934

Philip C.C. Huang (1985) The Peasant Economy and Social Change in North China

Philip C.C. Huang (1990) The Peasant Family and Rural Development in the Yangzi Delta, 1350-1988

Charles O. Hucker (1975) China’s Imperial Past

James Z. Lee and Wang Feng (1999) One Quarter of Humanity

Dwight H. Perkins (1969) Agricultural Development in China, 1368-1968

James Z. Lee and Cameron Campbell (1997) Fate and Fortune in Rural China

Ts’ui-jung Liu, James Z. Lee, David Sven Reher, Osamu Saito, and Wang Feng (2001) Asian Population History

David S. Landes (1998) The Wealth and Poverty of Nations

Edwin E. Moise, “Downward Mobility in Pre-Revolutionary China,” Modern China (Jan. 1977) pp. 3-31

Kenneth Pomeranz (2000) The Great Divergence

Heiner Rindermann, Michael A. Woodley, and James Stratford, “Haplogroups as evolutionary markers of cognitive ability,” Intelligence 40 (2012) pp. 362-375.

Edward A. Ross (1911) The Changing Chinese

David C. Schak, “Poverty,” Encyclopedia of Modern China (2009)

Franz Schurmann and Orville Schell (1967) Imperial China

Franz Schurmann and Orville Schell (1967) Republican China

Arthur Henderson Smith (1899) Village Life in China

Thomas C. Smith (1959) The Agrarian Origins of Modern Japan

Edgar Snow (1938/1968) Red Star Over China

Clark W. Sorensen, “Land Tenure and Class Relations in Colonial Korea,” Journal of Korean Studies (1990) pp. 35-54.

Lothrop Stoddard (1921) The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy

Ssu-yu Teng, “Chinese Influence on the Western Examination System,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Sep. 1943) pp. 267-312.

Noriko O. Tsuya, Wang Feng, George Alter, and James Z. Lee (2010) Prudence and Pressure: Reproduction and Human Agency in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900

Martin C. Yang (1945) A Chinese Village: Taitou, Shantung Province

C.K. Yang (1959a) A Chinese Village in Early Communist Transition

C.K. Yang (1959b) The Chinese Family in the Communist Revolution



1 Sam Dillon, “Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators,” The New York Times, December 7, 2010, A1: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/education/07education.html.

2 Sean Coughlan, “China: The world’s cleverest country?,” BBC News, May 8, 2012: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17585201. In the BBC interview, Andreas Schleicher, director of the OECD’s PISA tests, emphasized that not only had Shanghai’s results topped the world, but that the unpublished results from China’s major provinces, including from rural and disadvantaged areas, showed “remarkable performance.” Later, blogger Anatoly Karlin discovered that a dozen of those provincial results had been released on the Chinese internet, and discussed them at length. See Anatoly Karlin, “Analysis of China’s PISA 2009 Results,” August 13, 2012: https://akarlin.com/2012/08/13/analysis-of-chinas-pisa-2009-results/ and Ron Unz, “Race/IQ: Irish IQ & Chinese IQ,” The American Conservative, August 14, 2012: https://www.ronunz.org/2012/08/14/unz-on-raceiq-irish-iq-chinese-iq/.

3 Ron Unz, “The Myth of American Meritocracy,” The American Conservative, December 2012, pp. 14-51, Appendix E: https://theamericanconservative.com/articles/meritocracy-appendices/#5.

4 Acemoglu (2012) pp. 436-443.

5 Stoddard (1921) p.

6 Stoddard (1921) p. 28.

7 Ross (1911) pp. 70-111.

8 Allen (2008).

9 Clark (2007) pp. 266-271.

10 Most of the ideas in the remainder of this article were originally presented in an unpublished 1983 paper produced for E.O. Wilson at Harvard University. In 2010 I made that crude version available on the Internet, where it drew some attention and was eventually cited in an academic review article by Rindermann (2012) as being among the earliest examples of a theory for the evolution of high intelligence in a particular group. I have therefore decided to update and publish it here in a less eccentric form. My special thanks to anthropologist Peter Frost for encouraging me to retrieve the original paper from my undergraduate files and to theoretical physicist Steve Hsu for drawing attention to it on his blogsite. See https://www.ronunz.org/1980/04/01/social-darwinism-and-rural-china/ and https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/02/sociobiological-implications-of.html.

11 Teng (1943).

12 Hucker (1975) pp. 318-320. The lowest certification category of sheng-yuan possessed few direct privileges aside from exemption from forced state labor, but even if we include their total numbers, the total would still probably be just in the hundreds of thousands. See Ho (1959) pp. 340-343.
The total number of Imperial officials—degree holders who most directly benefited from their superior academic performance—was still just fewer than 20,000 when the population had reached 400 million. See Fairbank (1948/1979) p. 38.

13 Cochran (2009) pp. 187-224.

14 Elvin (1973) pp. 235-267 adduces considerable evidence that a manorial system of land-tenure, sometimes including serf-like conditions, actually survived into the early Ch’ing era, at least in large portions of China. But his suggestion that this constituted the dominant form of Chinese land-holding until that period seems to be a minority view among modern scholars.

15 Yang (1959a) pp. 41, 45-46; Hinton (1966) p. 27.

16 See Elvin (1973) pp. 129, 167, 177. See also Huang (1985) and Huang (1990) for a detailed discussion of the “managerial farmer” mode of production, an important aspect of the rural life in many Chinese regions.

17 Ho (1971) p. 219. Furthermore, growth rates in many particular regions far exceeded the national average, with for example the population of Hebei increasing perhaps 1,100% from 1393 to 1790. See Huang (1985) pp. 321-325.

18 Pomeranz (2000) p. 33; Clark (2007) p. 141. Smith (1899) pp. 18-19 also estimated that in his own day large portions of the Chinese agricultural countryside had a population density four times that of Belgium, the most densely populated country in Europe.

19The question of why Europe escaped its own Malthusian trap via an Industrial Revolution while China did not is an intriguing and important one, and a persuasive hypothesis is provided in Pomeranz (2000).

20 Moise (1977) p. 5.

21 Hinton (1966) p. 25; Smith (1899) p. 196.

22 Ho (1959) pp. 342-348.

23 Interviewed in Snow (1938/68) pp. 130-131.

24 Moise (1977).

25 Crook (1959) p. 133.

26 Crook (1959) p. 11.

27 Yang (1959a) p. 18.

28 Yang (1959a) p. 51.

29 William Hinton noted firsthand this inherent difficulty with the Communist “feudal tails campaign,” aimed at the heirs of wealthy landlords and other exploiters: “So great was the tendency of Chinese society toward dissipation of wealth through the practice of equal inheritance that very few persons could claim with confidence that their families were free from the taint of past exploitation.” See Hinton (1966) p. 203.

30 Hinton (1966) p. 38.

31 Yang (1945) p. 13.

32 Moise (1977) p. 20. In fact, Yang (1945) p. 12 explicitly characterizes village history as being “the ecological succession of clans,” as more successful families multiplied in size and gradually “crowded out” their less successful competitors, which eventually disappeared.

33 Under the Accelerationist evolutionary model, the rate at which beneficial mutations arise is proportional to the size of the population, and during most of its history China functioned as a single population pool, containing a quarter or more of all mankind. See Cochran (2009) pp. 65-76.

34Perhaps the strongest evidence against this causal model for the origins of current Chinese achievement comes from the difficulty of extending it to the other highly successful peoples of East Asia. Both the Japanese and the Koreans have done remarkably well in their economic and technological advancement, and also as small immigrant racial minorities in America and elsewhere. However, there is no evidence that rural life in either country had any of the major features possibly so significant for Chinese history, such as a total lack of feudal caste structure, an exceptionally commercialized system of agricultural production and land tenure, and the massive universal downward mobility due to equal division of property among male heirs. Indeed, Japanese society in particular had always been dominated by a rigidly aristocratic military caste, totally different from the exam-based meritocratic elite governing China. So to the extent that the modern behavior and performance of Japanese and Koreans closely resembles that of Han Chinese, we must look to other cultural, economic, or genetic factors in explaining this similarity rather than the legacy of the socio-economic system discussed in this article, such as the “cold winters” hypothesis of Richard Lynn and others. See Rindermann (2012) p. 363.

35 “Scientist’s Study of Brain Genes Sparks a Backlash,” Antonio Regaldo, The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2006, A1: https://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115040765329081636-T5DQ4jvnwqOdVvsP_XSVG_lvgik_20060628.html



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