When things were falling apart : Tocqueville, Fei Xiaotong and the agrarian causes of the Chinese revolution

Xiaohong XU, Ivan P. L. PNG, Junhong CHU, Yeh-Ning CHEN

Research output: Working paperWorking paper series

Abstract

Why the Chinese Communist Revolution succeeded has been long debated. Scholars have emphasized peasant proletarianization, Communist leadership in peasant nationalism, the attraction of their socio-economic reforms, their effective mobilization, Nationalists’ failures, and geographical conditions. Based on county gazetteers and administrative records of 154 counties in the most heavily contested region during the crucial years, we conduct the first multivariate local-level analysis of revolution. The results show little support for existing narratives. Instead, they substantiate what we call the “Tocqueville-Fei thesis”, that state centralization in agrarian bureaucratic polities inadvertently facilitated social revolution. The state’s effort to penetrate local communities undermined traditional governance structures, upsetting the balance between the state and local norms/elites and turning state agents into unbridled predators on peasants, which created favorable conditions for the Communists. This study has implications for understanding the modernization of agrarian societies and the dynamics of social change, and casts new light on the long-term trajectory of the state-society relationship in China.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2018

Fingerprint

peasant
cause
agrarian society
proletarianization
centralization
economic reform
nationalism
mobilization
modernization
social change
elite
leadership
governance
narrative
China
community

Keywords

  • Revolution
  • State Building
  • Social Change
  • Agrarian Societies
  • China
  • Communism
  • Tocqueville
  • Fei Xiaotong

Cite this

XU, Xiaohong ; PNG, Ivan P. L. ; CHU, Junhong ; CHEN, Yeh-Ning. / When things were falling apart : Tocqueville, Fei Xiaotong and the agrarian causes of the Chinese revolution. 2018.
@techreport{2d110b8eac974af997aa8da861f2862d,
title = "When things were falling apart : Tocqueville, Fei Xiaotong and the agrarian causes of the Chinese revolution",
abstract = "Why the Chinese Communist Revolution succeeded has been long debated. Scholars have emphasized peasant proletarianization, Communist leadership in peasant nationalism, the attraction of their socio-economic reforms, their effective mobilization, Nationalists’ failures, and geographical conditions. Based on county gazetteers and administrative records of 154 counties in the most heavily contested region during the crucial years, we conduct the first multivariate local-level analysis of revolution. The results show little support for existing narratives. Instead, they substantiate what we call the “Tocqueville-Fei thesis”, that state centralization in agrarian bureaucratic polities inadvertently facilitated social revolution. The state’s effort to penetrate local communities undermined traditional governance structures, upsetting the balance between the state and local norms/elites and turning state agents into unbridled predators on peasants, which created favorable conditions for the Communists. This study has implications for understanding the modernization of agrarian societies and the dynamics of social change, and casts new light on the long-term trajectory of the state-society relationship in China.",
keywords = "Revolution, State Building, Social Change, Agrarian Societies, China, Communism, Tocqueville, Fei Xiaotong",
author = "Xiaohong XU and PNG, {Ivan P. L.} and Junhong CHU and Yeh-Ning CHEN",
year = "2018",
month = "8",
day = "5",
doi = "10.2139/ssrn.3214959",
language = "English",
type = "WorkingPaper",

}

When things were falling apart : Tocqueville, Fei Xiaotong and the agrarian causes of the Chinese revolution. / XU, Xiaohong; PNG, Ivan P. L.; CHU, Junhong; CHEN, Yeh-Ning.

2018.

Research output: Working paperWorking paper series

TY - UNPB

T1 - When things were falling apart : Tocqueville, Fei Xiaotong and the agrarian causes of the Chinese revolution

AU - XU, Xiaohong

AU - PNG, Ivan P. L.

AU - CHU, Junhong

AU - CHEN, Yeh-Ning

PY - 2018/8/5

Y1 - 2018/8/5

N2 - Why the Chinese Communist Revolution succeeded has been long debated. Scholars have emphasized peasant proletarianization, Communist leadership in peasant nationalism, the attraction of their socio-economic reforms, their effective mobilization, Nationalists’ failures, and geographical conditions. Based on county gazetteers and administrative records of 154 counties in the most heavily contested region during the crucial years, we conduct the first multivariate local-level analysis of revolution. The results show little support for existing narratives. Instead, they substantiate what we call the “Tocqueville-Fei thesis”, that state centralization in agrarian bureaucratic polities inadvertently facilitated social revolution. The state’s effort to penetrate local communities undermined traditional governance structures, upsetting the balance between the state and local norms/elites and turning state agents into unbridled predators on peasants, which created favorable conditions for the Communists. This study has implications for understanding the modernization of agrarian societies and the dynamics of social change, and casts new light on the long-term trajectory of the state-society relationship in China.

AB - Why the Chinese Communist Revolution succeeded has been long debated. Scholars have emphasized peasant proletarianization, Communist leadership in peasant nationalism, the attraction of their socio-economic reforms, their effective mobilization, Nationalists’ failures, and geographical conditions. Based on county gazetteers and administrative records of 154 counties in the most heavily contested region during the crucial years, we conduct the first multivariate local-level analysis of revolution. The results show little support for existing narratives. Instead, they substantiate what we call the “Tocqueville-Fei thesis”, that state centralization in agrarian bureaucratic polities inadvertently facilitated social revolution. The state’s effort to penetrate local communities undermined traditional governance structures, upsetting the balance between the state and local norms/elites and turning state agents into unbridled predators on peasants, which created favorable conditions for the Communists. This study has implications for understanding the modernization of agrarian societies and the dynamics of social change, and casts new light on the long-term trajectory of the state-society relationship in China.

KW - Revolution

KW - State Building

KW - Social Change

KW - Agrarian Societies

KW - China

KW - Communism

KW - Tocqueville

KW - Fei Xiaotong

UR - https://commons.ln.edu.hk/sw_master/7630

U2 - 10.2139/ssrn.3214959

DO - 10.2139/ssrn.3214959

M3 - Working paper series

BT - When things were falling apart : Tocqueville, Fei Xiaotong and the agrarian causes of the Chinese revolution

ER -