Current literature on John Stuart Mill’s writings about Asia have focused mainly on his relationship with India because of Mill’s thirty-five-year career in the East India Company. Scholars in both China and the West have not paid attention to Mill’s views on China. This paper delves into Mill’s notion of China’s stationary state from two perspectives: (1) a stationary state of capital accumulation and (2) a stationary state of human improvement. In Principles, Mill explained his conception of a stationary state. He linked China’s economic stagnation to the low desire for capital accumulation. In On Liberty and Considerations, Mill explored the reasons for China’s stagnancy in human improvement. He discussed the negative impact of the “despotism of custom” on individual liberty and the defects of a bureaucratic government in nineteenth-century China. Mill thought that a stationary state of capital accumulation does not necessarily imply a stationary state of human improvement. However, he seemed to argue that in China these two types of stationary states have a mutual effect upon each other.
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Yue Xiao; John Stuart Mill on China’s Stationary State. History of Political Economy 1 October 2021; 53 (5): 833–856. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-9395072
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