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

James Kai-sing Kung (), Ömer Özak, Louis Putterman and Shuang Shi ()
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James Kai-sing Kung: City University of Hong Kong
Shuang Shi: City University of Hong Kong

No 15348, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: We propose and test empirically a theory describing the endogenous formation and persistence of mega-states, using China as an example. We suggest that the relative timing of the emergence of agricultural societies, and their distance from each other, set off a race between their autochthonous state-building projects, which determines their extent and persistence. Using a novel dataset describing the historical presence of Chinese states, prehistoric development, the diffusion of agriculture, and migratory distance across 1° × 1° grid cells in eastern Asia, we find that cells that adopted agriculture earlier and were close to Erlitou – the earliest political center in eastern Asia – remained under Chinese control for longer and continue to be a part of China today. By contrast, cells that adopted agriculture early and were located further from Erlitou developed into independent states, as agriculture provided the fertile ground for state-formation, while isolation provided time for them to develop and confront the expanding Chinese empire. Our study sheds important light on why eastern Asia kept reproducing a mega-state in the area that became China and on the determinants of its borders with other states.

Keywords: state; agriculture; isolation; social complexity; stickiness to China; Erlitou; East Asia (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F50 F59 H70 H79 N90 O10 R10 Z10 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 34 pages
Date: 2022-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr, nep-cna, nep-dem and nep-evo
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Related works:
Working Paper: Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State (2022) Downloads
Working Paper: Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State (2022) Downloads
Working Paper: Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State (2022) Downloads
Working Paper: Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State (2022) Downloads
Working Paper: Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the World's Most Enduring Mega-State (2020) Downloads
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