Millet, Rice, and Isolation: Origins and Persistence of the Worlds Most Enduring Mega-State

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Authors

James Kai-sing Kung, Ömer Özak, Louis Putterman, Shuang Shi

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-degree x 1-degree 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.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.32942/osf.io/z4krh

Subjects

Anthropology, Archaeological Anthropology, Asian Studies, Comparative Politics, Economic History, Economics, Geography, Growth and Development, Human Geography, International and Area Studies, International Relations, Models and Methods, Nature and Society Relations, Other Anthropology, Other Economics, Other Political Science, Political Economy, Political Science, Regional Economics, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Social and Cultural Anthropology

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Dates

Published: 2022-06-05 07:07

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CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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