The Chairman's Army: How the Party Controls the Military in China
Militaries pose a key threat to the stability of authoritarian regimes. How has the Chinese Communist Party been so successful at controlling the military — even across several changes of the party’s top leadership? Drawing on a new dataset of top military leaders in China and nearly 1 million documents from the military’s key propaganda organ, I build a theory of authoritarian control over the military. I argue that control over the military in China rests on “reciprocal loyalty.” During leadership transitions, the party invests heavily in grassroots party-building efforts that focus on ideological loyalty. In return, the party keeps the leadership of the military stable during regime transitions; instead of shuffling out officers, as some analysts have argued, the party allows them to serve in top posts for, on average, 1.5 more years during leadership changes. I argue this combination of bottom-up ideological loyalty and top-down organizational loyalty applies to other areas of political life in autocracies.
The Origins of Nationalism: Evidence From China (with Chen Ting)
What are the origins of nationalism? Existing theory emphasizes domestic factors such as the rise of print media and state modernization. In this paper, by contrast, we trace the emergence of early nationalist movements to a threat from abroad: missionary activity. Drawing on evidence from China, we show how missionary activity sparked the rise of the country's Nationalist Party in the early 1900s. We gather new data on early Nationalist Party members, missionary activity, and anti-missionary violence. Qualitative process tracing and a natural experiment show how missionaries threatened the political power of local elites, who responded by using nationalism to mobilize violent, anti-foreign riots and by founding nationalist political organizations. The findings provide a new hypothesis for the origins of nationalism, with suggestive evidence that it may apply to other contexts.
Peaceful Partisans: How Political Parties Shape Nationalist Conflicts in China and Japan (with Trevor Incerti, Frances Rosenbluth, Seiki Tanaka, and Jiahua Yue)
It is well known that regime types affect international conflicts. However, one important institutional feature that vastly differs across regime types is not fully examined in the literature: political parties. We argue that the different nature of political parties across regime types can provide incentives for core supporters of a party in a democracy to demand their leaders to be more hawkish than the counterparts in an autocracy, which, in turn, affects international conflicts. We draw on evidence from paired experiments in democratic Japan and non-democratic China. Our experiments show that ruling party members in Japan punish leaders more than others for ratcheting down conflict, while ruling party insiders in China punish less. Under these circumstances, it may sometimes be the non-democratic regime that is better able to rein in peace-threatening displays of nationalism.
Why Didn’t the Industrial Revolution Happen in China? The Fiscal Origins of the Great Divergence
China under the Song Dynasty was by a wide margin the most prosperous and innovative nation in the world. Why didn’t the Industrial Revolution happen in China during this period of a thousand years ago? In this paper, I argue that the culprit was not Chinese society or culture, as has been argued by some, but heavy-handed taxation and over-investment in the military. During this period, the Song emperors built what was arguably the world’s first modern fiscal state. While far more advanced than European states of the era, these political institutions also encouraged rent-seeking and weakened property rights. Drawing on a new panel of prefectures, I show that the regions with heaviest tax commercial quotas and financially draining military obligations dwindled in population relative to low-tax regions. The paper contributes to an important debate on the Great Divergence, highlighting how political institutions, not culture, drive long-run patterns of growth.