The Rise of the Chinese Communist Party

Mon, Apr 4, 2022, 8:30 pm
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Paul and Marcia Wythes Center on Contemporary China


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The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the only surviving communist party governing a sizeable territory and population today. How the CCP overcame the adversities that confronted it during the Sino-Japanese War (c. 1937-45) and succeeded in its revolution remains empirically unexamined, however. We show, using the density of respectively the middle-to-upper rank CCP cadres (3.7%), martyr soldiers (14.3%), and size of the guerilla base (95.4%) as proxies for communist growth, that the CCP grew significantly faster in counties occupied by the Japanese Army than those garrisoned by the Kuomingtang. We propose that war suffering was the channel through which a nationalist sentiment had developed among the Chinese people who perceived that the nation’s peril would be their own peril. By decomposing war suffering into “struggle for survival” and “humiliation and hatred” caused by wartime sex crimes, we find that the number of civilians killed and rape cases – their respective proxies – are also significantly higher in the occupied areas. The causal relationship between war and revolution finds further support in the evidence that people who live today in formerly Japanese-occupied counties are significantly more nationalistic and exhibit greater trust in the government than those who reside elsewhere.

James Kai-Sing Kung is Sein and Isaac R Souede Professorship in Economic History at the Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong (HKU). His research interests are steeped in the institutions and culture and their relationships to long-term economic growth in China (so-called “deep-rooted” factors in comparative development), and the political economy of development in China. His publications have appeared in both economics and political science journals such as The Quarterly Journal of Economics, The American Political Science Review, The Review of Economics and Statistics, The Economic Journal, The Journal of the European Economic Association, and other specialised journals in the areas of growth, development, and history. He served as the President of the Association for Comparative Economic Studies in 2021 and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Comparative Economics.

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