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Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State

Author

Listed:
  • James Kai-sing Kung

    (The University of Hong Kong)

  • Ömer Özak

    (Southern Methodist University)

  • Louis Putterman

    (Brown University)

  • Shuang Shi

    (The University of Hong Kong)

Abstract

We propose and empirically test a theory for the endogenous formation and persistence of large states, using China as an example. We suggest that the relative timing of the emergence of agricultural societies and their distance to each other set off a race between autochthonous state-building projects and the expansion of neighboring (proto-)states. Using a novel dataset on the Chinese state's historical presence, the timing of agricultural adoption, social complexity, climate, and geography across 1x1 degree grid cells in East Asia, we provide empirical support for this hypothesis. Specifically, we find that on average, cells that adopted agriculture earlier or were close to the earliest archaic state in East Asia (Erlitou) remained longer under Sinitic control. In contrast, earlier adoption of agriculture decreased the persistent control of the Chinese state in cells farther than 2.8 weeks of travel from Erlitou.

Suggested Citation

  • James Kai-sing Kung & Ömer Özak & Louis Putterman & Shuang Shi, 2020. "Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State," Departmental Working Papers 2016, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:smu:ecowpa:2016
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Comparative Development; State-Building; Emergence of States; Agricultural Adoption; Isolation; Neolithic Revolution; Social Complexity; East Asia; China; Erlitou;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F50 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - General
    • F59 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Other
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General
    • H79 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Other
    • N90 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • R10 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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