The Chairman's Army: Using Purges and Propaganda to Control the Military in China
How has the Chinese Communist Party successfully controlled the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) across several leadership transitions? Drawing on a new dataset of PLA leaders and over 900,000 documents from the military's key propaganda organ, I build a theory of authoritarian control over the military. I argue that Communist Party ensures the military’s loyalty using two tools: propaganda to control the rank-and-file and purges to control the elite officer corps. I show that in the year before a leadership transition, the party invests in intensive ideological campaigns that encourage soldiers to remain loyal to the party as an organization, not individual officers or political leaders. Following this, the incoming party leader systematically purges the generals installed by his predecessor, allowing him to install personally loyal officers. The paper contributes to our understanding of how the CCP controls the military, which remains little studied, and more broadly to how authoritarian regimes manage leadership transitions.
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.
Why Didn’t the Industrial Revolution Happen in China? The Roots of the Great Divergence
A thousand years ago, China 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? In this paper, I argue that the culprit was heavy-handed taxation and crippling levels of investment in the military. During this period, the Song emperors built what was arguably the world’s first modern fiscal state. While the Chinese state had far higher capacity than European states of the era, these political institutions also encouraged local 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 state-building shapes long-run patterns of growth.
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.