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Admittedly, China didn't "go nowhere". Late Medieval China had living conditions better than any the pre-industrial and industrial West managed, while working less than the post-industrial West does today. Only the onset of social democracy and post-industrialization drove living standards up to what the Chinese enjoyed for ages.

Admittedly, they mostly managed this because large portions of their land area could naturally support plenty of people without too much work put into agriculture.

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