Internal Conflict, Geopolitics, and State Development: Evidence from Imperial China
60 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2018 Last revised: 29 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 28, 2020
We analyze the conditions under which internal conflict can promote or impede state development, taking imperial China as a laboratory. We develop a novel theoretical framework in which local elites and the central state interact over the provision of internal security. Using new micro-level data across more than half a millennium, we show evidence that, traditionally, the central state improved its monopoly over violence in response to mass rebellion. The mid-nineteenth century marked the start of a new geopolitical era in China, when the central state's costs of external military defense rose greatly. In turn, we find evidence for a shift in leadership toward local elites in response to internal conflict. This change reduced the central state's monopoly over violence and promoted state failure. Our study implies that the relationship between internal conflict and state development depends on the cost conditions for a given geopolitical context.
Keywords: Mass Violence, External Threats, State Capacity, Elite Action, Kin Networks, China
JEL Classification: N45, P48, H10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation