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.
The Anti-Democratic Peace? How Parties Shape Nationalism in China and Japan (with Trevor Incerti, Frances Rosenbluth, Seiki Tanaka, and Jiahua Yue)
A logical foundation of the democratic peace theory is that citizens of democracies will hold their leaders accountable for the costs of war. In this paper, we identify a shortcoming in this logic, drawing on evidence from paired experiments in democratic Japan and non-democratic China. In Japan, partisan public opinion can pressure the leaders of parties with nationalist political bases to take a hard line on conflicts. In a crisis, the electoral need to appeal to a nationalist co-partisans can nudge the leaders of democracies towards conflict. In an autocracy such as China, on the other hand, the ruling party can more easily manipulate nationalism. Our experiments show that ruling party members in Japan punish leaders more for ratcheting down conflict, while regime insiders in China punish less. Under these circumstances, it may be the non-democratic regime that is better able to rein in peace-threatening displays of nationalism.
When State-Building Hinders Growth: The Legacy of China's Confucian Bureaucracy
Do countries with a long history of state-building fare better in the long run? Recent work has shown that earlier state-building may lead to higher levels of present-day growth. By contrast, I use a natural experiment to show that the regions of China with over a thousand years of sustained exposure to state-building are significantly poorer today. The mechanism of persistence, I argue, was the introduction of a civil service exam based on knowledge of Confucian classics, which strengthened the social prestige of the civil service and weakened the prestige of commerce. A thousand years later, the regions of China where the Confucian bureaucracy was first introduced have a more educated population and more Confucian temples, but lower levels of wealth. The paper contributes to an important debate on the Great Divergence, highlighting how political institutions interact with culture to cause long-run patterns of growth.