When studying the history of China, many put a focus on innovations that gave a start to the development of Western civilizations. Despite the fact that China was very advanced in agricultural and technological productivity in the time period leading up to the fourteenth century, the country stopped its development and fell behind in comparison with the West. It is important to mention that the sphere of innovation in the postmodern period was characterized by remarkable inventions such as paper, gunpowder, and the magnetic compass; items that became crucial components for facilitating progress in Europe. Many explained China’s developmental stagnation by the concept of “high-level equilibrium trap”, which was characterized by the lack of human capital and entrepreneurship, restricted markets, and political hazards (Lin 271).
The explanation as to why the Industrial Revolution did not originate in China is associated with the nature of invention and discovery. For example, in the premodern time period, innovations were developed from experience acquired from many years of performing the same tasks. Contrary to this, the postmodern time period was characterized by innovation stemming from experiments. Therefore, China fell behind in its innovational development because it did not make a change towards experiment-based innovation and continued grounding the technological advancements on experience.
Needham’s paradox of why China’s technology was so far ahead from Western civilizations but failed in modern times is explained by many theories. Despite the fact that the large population of China facilitated innovations and development in premodern times, the country collapsed on its way towards advancement because of the failure to integrate the scientific component into the creation of new inventions (Lin 286). This means that the country had to be better equipped with important technology and adaptive innovations that would facilitate domestic research and put the country ahead of others.
Lin, Justin Yifu. “The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution Did Not Originate in China.” Economic Development and Cultural Change, vol. 43, no. 2, 1995, pp. 269-292.