41 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2015 Last revised: 19 Nov 2015
Date Written: October 28, 2015
We provide a new framework to account for the diverging paths of political development and state building in China and Japan during the second half of the nineteenth century. The arrival of Western powers not only brought opportunities to adopt new technologies, but also fundamentally threatened the national sovereignty of both Qing China and Tokugawa Japan. We argue that these threats produce an unambiguous tendency toward centralization and modernization for small states, but place conflicting demands on geographically larger states. We use our theory to study why China, which had been centralized for much of its history, experienced gradual disintegration upon the Western arrival, and how Japan, which had been politically fragmented for centuries, rapidly unified and modernized during the same period. To further demonstrate its validity, we also apply our model to other historical episodes of state building, such as the unification of Anglo-Saxon England in the tenth century and the rise of Muscovy during the fifteenth century.
Keywords: China; Japan, Geopolitics, State Capacity, Political Fragmentation, Political Centralization, Economic Modernization
JEL Classification: H2, H4, H56, N30, N33, N35, N40, N43, N45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Koyama, Mark and Moriguchi, Chiaki and Sng, Tuan-Hwee, Geopolitics and Asia's Little Divergence: A Comparative Analysis of State Building in China and Japan after 1850 (October 28, 2015). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 15-54. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2682702 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2682702
By Erik Angner