Persistence of Confucian Values? Legacies of Imperialism in China & Taiwan
43 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2016 Last revised: 24 May 2017
Date Written: November 7, 2016
In this paper, we analyze the long-run effects of Western and Japanese imperial expansion on the survival of Confucian values in China and Taiwan. Mainland China and Taiwan had been under the rule of the Qing dynasty and shared the same culture and societal structure before the onset of imperial expansions in the mid-nineteenth century. We introduce a regression discontinuity design (RDD) and apply the Language Barrier Index (LBI) provided by Lohmann (2011), which captures the cultural distance between imperial occupiers and the regions of mainland China and Taiwan. We show that due to the cultural proximity of Japanese invaders to Taiwan, Japan engaged strongly in the development of an efficient public administration in Taiwan. However, mainland China was intruded mainly by Western empires from 1842 to the early twentieth century and thus experienced a different cultural external treatment. This gave rise to extractive Western institutions in combination with a substantially weakened Qing government, which strongly diverted Confucian values from their original path. Hence, the smaller distance between Japanese and Chinese languages preserved crucial Confucian values such as family ties, income equality and preference for strong leadership. In contrast, the large cultural distance between mainland China, on the one hand, and Britain, France and Russia, on the other, prevented formal state-building and facilitated individualism as autonomous self-realization. Confucian values have been more likely to persist in the long-run in Taiwan and those provinces of mainland China that were partly under Japanese occupation.
Keywords: Confucianism, imperialism, legacies, cultural distance, economic development, China, Taiwan
JEL Classification: O53, O57, P16, P26, P51, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation