A Longevity Mechanism of Chinese Absolutism

45 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020 Last revised: 13 Aug 2020

See all articles by Yasheng Huang

Yasheng Huang

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Clair Yang

University of Washington - Henry. M. Jackson School of International Studies

Date Written: July 8, 2020

Abstract

A counterpart of what is known as “European exceptionalism”—political stability and institutional arrangement that enabled modern economic growth and political development—is a “Chinese anomaly.” This anomaly takes the form of a sharp contrast with pre-modern Europe: Chinese imperial rulers stayed in power longer than their European counterparts but this political stability was accompanied by a high level of institutional stasis. In this paper, we argue that a well-known Chinese institution, the civil service examination (CSE) system, contributed to China’s imperial longevity. We utilize detailed historical data on individual CSE performance to demonstrate the longevity-contributory mechanisms of CSE—constraining access to power by aristocrats and other wealth-holders. We argue that a key to unpacking the so-called “Chinese anomaly” is to understand the role of bureaucracy in political development in China and potentially in other regions.

Keywords: historical political development, bureaucracy, absolutism, China

Suggested Citation

Huang, Yasheng and Yang, Clair, A Longevity Mechanism of Chinese Absolutism (July 8, 2020). 21st Century China Center Research Paper No. 2020-02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3650567 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3650567

Yasheng Huang

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Clair Yang (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Henry. M. Jackson School of International Studies ( email )

400 Thomson Hall
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
397
Abstract Views
4,089
rank
81,702
PlumX Metrics