IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/jcecon/v47y2019i4p827-852.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Terrain ruggedness and limits of political repression: Evidence from China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine (1959-61)

Author

Listed:
  • Gooch, Elizabeth

Abstract

Chairman Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward development plan strongly affected food security in rural China at the time, given that many of the associated policies exploited rural labor and extracted resources. A few months after the plan’s initial implementation in August 1958, food shortages were reported; by the spring of 1961, more than 30 million citizens had died of starvation and famine-related illnesses. However, as the national plan was rolled out and then upheld over three years, on-the-ground implementation was nonuniform. Using georeferenced terrain ruggedness data which captures small-scale topological irregularities and information on provincial leadership attitudes towards Mao’s plan, I provide evidence on forces underlying the famine’s intensity and distribution. The analysis is based on a differential effect, in which a fear-based incentive structure characterizing the plan’s implementation is implicitly embedded. The baseline results indicate that rugged terrain protected more than 4.6 million rural Chinese from dying in the famine. By identifying an additional benefit of ruggedness to health and well-being in some rural communities, I show that not only does a causal relationship exist at a local level between Great Leap policies and famine mortality, but also that the lethality of the policies varied per state power at the time.

Suggested Citation

  • Gooch, Elizabeth, 2019. "Terrain ruggedness and limits of political repression: Evidence from China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine (1959-61)," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 827-852.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:47:y:2019:i:4:p:827-852
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2019.08.001
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147596718303172
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1016/j.jce.2019.08.001?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Xue, Melanie Meng & Koyama, Mark, 2018. "Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China," MPRA Paper 84249, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, February.
    3. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1992. "Enforcement Costs and the Optimal Magnitude and Probability of Fines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 133-148, April.
    4. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2017. "States and economic growth: Capacity and constraints," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-20.
    5. Wei Li & Dennis Tao Yang, 2005. "The Great Leap Forward: Anatomy of a Central Planning Disaster," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 840-877, August.
    6. Susan Athey & Guido W. Imbens, 2017. "The State of Applied Econometrics: Causality and Policy Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 3-32, Spring.
    7. Jones, Philip P. & Poleman, Thomas T., 1962. "Communes and the Agricultural Crisis in Communist China," Food Research Institute Studies, Stanford University, Food Research Institute, vol. 3(1), pages 1-20.
    8. Houser, Daniel & Sands, Barbara & Xiao, Erte, 2009. "Three parts natural, seven parts man-made: Bayesian analysis of China's Great Leap Forward demographic disaster," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 148-159, February.
    9. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2013. "Taxation and Development," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 041, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    10. Jimenez-Ayora, Pablo & Ulubaşoğlu, Mehmet Ali, 2015. "What underlies weak states? The role of terrain ruggedness," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 167-183.
    11. Lin, Justin Yifu & Yang, Dennis Tao, 2000. "Food Availability, Entitlements and the Chinese Famine of 1959-61," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(460), pages 136-158, January.
    12. repec:cep:stieop:41 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Chang, Gene Hsin & Wen, Guanzhong James, 1997. "Communal Dining and the Chinese Famine of 1958-1961," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(1), pages 1-34, October.
    14. Xin Meng & Nancy Qian & Pierre Yared, 2015. "The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine, 1959–1961," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(4), pages 1568-1611.
    15. Chang, Gene Hsin & Wen, Guanzhong James, 1998. "Food availability versus consumption efficiency: causes of the Chinese famine," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 157-165.
    16. Yang, Dali L. & Su, Fubing, 1998. "The politics of famine and reform in rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 141-155.
    17. Kung, James Kai-Sing & Chen, Shuo, 2011. "The Tragedy of the Nomenklatura: Career Incentives and Political Radicalism during China's Great Leap Famine," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 27-45, February.
    18. Riskin, Carl, 1998. "Seven questions about the Chinese famine of 1959-1961," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 111-124.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Elizabeth Gooch, 2018. "Resistance is Futile? Institutional and Geographic Factors in China’s Great Leap Famine," HiCN Working Papers 266, Households in Conflict Network.
    2. Kasahara, Hiroyuki & Li, Bingjing, 2020. "Grain exports and the causes of China's Great Famine, 1959–1961: County-level evidence," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    3. Matthieu CLEMENT, 2010. "Food Availability and Food Entitlements during the Chinese Great Leap Forward Famine: A dynamic panel data analysis (In French)," Cahiers du GREThA (2007-2019) 2010-03, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée (GREThA).
    4. Gooch, Elizabeth, 2017. "Estimating the Long-Term Impact of the Great Chinese Famine (1959–61) on Modern China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 140-151.
    5. Feng, Xunan & Johansson, Anders C., 2018. "Living through the Great Chinese Famine: Early-life experiences and managerial decisions," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 638-657.
    6. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2007. "Making Famine History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(1), pages 5-38, March.
    7. Xue Feng Hu & Gordon G. Liu & Maoyong Fan, 2017. "Long‐Term Effects of Famine on Chronic Diseases: Evidence from China's Great Leap Forward Famine," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(7), pages 922-936, July.
    8. Gørgens, Tue & Meng, Xin & Vaithianathan, Rhema, 2012. "Stunting and selection effects of famine: A case study of the Great Chinese Famine," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 99-111.
    9. Kung, James Kai-sing & Zhou, Titi, 2021. "Political elites and hometown favoritism in famine-stricken China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 22-37.
    10. Huang, Cheng & Phillips, Michael R. & Zhang, Yali & Zhang, Jingxuan & Shi, Qichang & Song, Zhiqiang & Ding, Zhijie & Pang, Shutao & Martorell, Reynaldo, 2013. "Malnutrition in early life and adult mental health: Evidence from a natural experiment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 259-266.
    11. Mu, Ren & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2008. "Gender difference in the long-term impact of famine:," IFPRI discussion papers 760, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    12. Loh, Chung-Ping A. & Li, Qiang, 2013. "Peer effects in adolescent bodyweight: Evidence from rural China," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 35-44.
    13. Bai, Ying & Kung, James Kai-sing, 2014. "The shaping of an institutional choice: Weather shocks, the Great Leap Famine, and agricultural decollectivization in China," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 1-26.
    14. Lu, Yi & Luan, Mengna & Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2020. "Did the communists contribute to China’s rural growth?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 75(C).
    15. Wenli Cheng & Hui Shi, 2019. "Surviving the Famine Unscathed? An Analysis of the Long‐Term Health Effects of the Great Chinese Famine," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 86(2), pages 746-772, October.
    16. Ma, Debin & Rubin, Jared, 2019. "The Paradox of Power: Principal-agent problems and administrative capacity in Imperial China (and other absolutist regimes)," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 277-294.
    17. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2007. "The ripple that drowns? Twentieth-century famines in China and India as economic history," Working Papers 200719, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    18. Mu, Ren & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2011. "Why does the Great Chinese Famine affect the male and female survivors differently? Mortality selection versus son preference," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 92-105, January.
    19. Li, Qiang & An, Lian, 2015. "Intergenerational health consequences of the 1959–1961 Great Famine on children in rural China," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 18(C), pages 27-40.
    20. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2008. "The ripple that drowns? Twentieth‐century famines in China and India as economic history1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 61(s1), pages 5-37, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    China; Geography; Food security; History; Causality; State power; Forced labor; Political economy; Institutions; GIS;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N55 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N95 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Asia including Middle East

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:47:y:2019:i:4:p:827-852. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622864 .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622864 .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.