The Making of Bad Gentry: The Abolition of Keju, Local Governance and Anti-Elite Protests, 1902-1911
Forthcoming, Journal of Economic History
56 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2021 Last revised: 9 Sep 2021
Date Written: July 17, 2021
This paper investigates the impact of the abolition of the civil service exam on local governance in early twentieth-century China. Before the abolition, local elites collected surtaxes that financed local public goods, but they were supervised by the state and could lose candidacy for higher status if they engaged in corrupt behavior. This prospect of upward mobility (POUM) gave them incentives to behave well, which the abolition of the exam removed. Using anti-elite protests as a proxy for the deterioration of local governance, we find that prefectures with a higher POUM experienced more incidents of anti-elite protests after the abolition.
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