Internal Conflict, Geopolitics, and State Development: Evidence from Imperial China

60 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2018 Last revised: 29 Apr 2020

See all articles by Mark Dincecco

Mark Dincecco

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Yuhua Wang

Department of Government, Harvard University

Date Written: April 28, 2020

Abstract

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

Dincecco, Mark and Wang, Yuhua, Internal Conflict, Geopolitics, and State Development: Evidence from Imperial China (April 28, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3209556 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3209556

Mark Dincecco (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/umich.edu/dincecco

Yuhua Wang

Department of Government, Harvard University ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/yuhuawang/home

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