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In this paper, we ask the following question: why couldn't Early Modern China make the leap to capitalism, as we have come to know it in the West? We suggest that, even if China compared well with the West in key economic features - commercialization and commodification of goods, land, labor - up to the 18th century, it did not traverse the path to Capitalism because of the "fact of empire". Lacking the scale of fiscal difficulties encountered in Early Modern Europe, Late Imperial China did notdoi:10.1590/0101-31572016v37n01a09 fatcat:eznbaktefbcx7puchwbvuw6mzu