This conclusive chapter proposes another interpretation of the Europe/China
divergence, based on a redefinition of capitalism in much broader terms than
its mere reduction to the industrial revolution. It recalls the reasons why
merchant networks were unable to formalize autonomous institutions, in order
to confer a perennial scope to their affairs. It revisits the paradox of
Chinese economic history where the emergence of rich merchants does not
translate into steady capital accumulation. The Ming commercial revolution
was not the premise of a new world, but rather the sign of a dying economy
whose dynamism had been exhausted. There was indeed a socio-economic
transformation of China under the Qing, but it took place in a political
framework and geopolitical context very different from Europe. The
transformation towards a capitalist economy was halted, while the rise of
the market economy paradoxically contributed to the weakening of the
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