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Warlords, State Failures, and the Rise of Communism in China (English)

This paper documents that the spread of communism in China was partly caused by state failures in the early 20th century. It finds that famines became more frequent after China fell into warlord fragmentation, especially for prefectures with less rugged borders and those facing stronger military threat. The relation between topography and famines holds when using historical border changes to instrument border ruggedness. More people from famine-inflicted prefectures died in the subsequent decades for the communist movement, but not for the Nationalist Army. There is evidence that famines exacerbated rural inequality, which pushed more peasants to the side of the communists.


  • Author

    Huang,Zhangkai, Miao,Meng, Shao,Yi, Xu,L. Colin

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  • Document Type

    Policy Research Working Paper

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  • Region

    East Asia and Pacific,

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  • Doc Name

    Warlords, State Failures, and the Rise of Communism in China

  • Keywords

    centre for research on the epidemiology; development research group; number of war deaths; food and agriculture organization; Research Support; instrumental variable estimation; economic history; first world war; second world war; million people; conflict and violence; chance of survival; human capital accumulation; impact of land; investments in agriculture; high crime area; parameter of interest; war casualty; military threat; fixed effect; natural conditions; military force; natural barrier; land inequality; famine relief; state failure; standard deviation; public good; Public Goods; famine prevention; fiscal resource; baseline regression; economic hardship; border area; exclusion restriction; standard error; disaster relief; income inequality; positive relationship; military power; military training; casualty rate; fiscal revenue; geographical feature; natural disaster; state functions; military conflict; Political Violence; sample period; food shortage; local resident; resource constraint; communist party; natural boundary; absolute poverty; geographical boundary; humanitarian relief; long-term impact; high probability; peasant organizations; political support; military action; unemployment risk; long-term benefits; land redistribution; capitalist system; military advantage; empirical evidence; local population; population expansion; population center; rural inequality; monthly reports; adverse consequence; colonial period; bureaucratic system; destructive impact; private saving; local price; local control; external affairs; increase productivity; political influence; armed groups; survival rate; Civil War; land policy; land policies; ruling party; tax rate; Land Ownership; academic interest; economics literature; political events; still others; government army; fiscal austerity; banking crisis; political coalition; severe drought; road access; across province; military education; social class; military academies; several factors; downward bias; geographical advantage; major river; negative sign; ethnic population; agricultural production; central state; logistic regression; human casualties; robustness check; local interest; local connections; governance capacity; Political Economy; fiscal variable; fiscal income; class struggle; business tax; local taxes; military affair; fiscal capacities; population composition; time trend; violent crime; historical conditions; historical event; development policy; open access; social order; Armed Forces; individual behavior; death benefit; military operation; agriculture production; collect tax; significant correlation; smaller number; communist movement; natural shock; transportation cost; governance outcome; explanatory variable; long-term perspective; border strip; class consciousness; statistical significance



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Huang,Zhangkai Miao,Meng Shao,Yi Xu,L. Colin

Warlords, State Failures, and the Rise of Communism in China (English). Policy Research working paper,no. WPS 9754 Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.