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The price of persecution: The long-term effects of the Anti-Rightist Campaign on economic performance in post-Mao China

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  • Zeng, Zhaojin
  • Eisenman, Joshua

Abstract

What are the long-run effects of mass political repression on economic performance? Using an original county-level dataset from Maoist China, we demonstrate a strong and robust negative relationship exists between the scale of repression of intellectuals in the Anti-Rightist Campaign (ARC) in 1957–58 and economic productivity decades later. This fall in economic output is caused by the loss of already scarce human capital resulting from the violent political campaign. Until at least 2000, significant and robust negative correlations exist between the percentage of victims in a county and its populations’ level of educational achievement and economic performance. By demonstrating the negative relationship between the state’s purposeful destruction of human capital for political reasons and long-run economic growth, we are able to add China to a growing body of research on the long-run deleterious effects of state-sponsored political repression against intellectuals. Using China’s ARC as an example, this study is the first to use quantitative methods to demonstrate the often-overlooked long-term negative economic effects of political repression under authoritarian regimes.

Suggested Citation

  • Zeng, Zhaojin & Eisenman, Joshua, 2018. "The price of persecution: The long-term effects of the Anti-Rightist Campaign on economic performance in post-Mao China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 249-260.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:109:y:2018:i:c:p:249-260
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.04.013
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