Domestic Authority and Foreign Economic Policies in Chinese History
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CitationStrange, Austin. 2020. Domestic Authority and Foreign Economic Policies in Chinese History. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractConcerns about domestic authority shape how governments conduct their foreign policies. However, this influence is often difficult to observe in highly opaque, non-democratic political systems. In the first part of the dissertation, I investigate the link between domestic authority and foreign policy in the context of diplomacy and trade in late imperial China, a period that spans the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. I argue that international diplomacy can serve leaders’ domestic political needs when it is highly visible to relevant audiences; conducted with counterparts held in relatively high esteem domestically; when certain diplomatic practices are historically associated with regime authority; or when diplomacy is wielded by leaders with relatively low levels of legitimacy. Using an original dataset of over 5,000 Ming and Qing tribute exchanges, I demonstrate that Chinese emperors newly in power conducted a disproportionately high volume of diplomatic activity. I find weaker evidence that this effect was more salient among low-legitimacy emperors. An accompanying case study illustrates how the Yongle Emperor deployed tribute diplomacy as a tool for domestic authority consolidation.
Turning to the trade policies of the same period, I argue that beyond leaders, other autocratic elites who participate in foreign policy making are motivated by similar authority concerns. Extant research on non-democratic trade policy has largely neglected this group of actors. I develop a theory that predicts variation in elite policy preferences based on top-down and bottom-up authority relations with the leader and local trading communities, respectively. To assess these claims, I introduce a dataset on the maritime trade preferences of several hundred individual elite officials in late imperial China created through 10 months of archival work in Beijing and Taipei. The data suggest that coastal provincial officials became key pro-trade advocates during the Qing dynasty. The findings offer an example of how trade preferences can vary within a non-democratic regime, and how historical cases can be especially useful for empirically studying these preferences.
In the third paper, the dissertation then flips the focus from the domestic politics of Chinese foreign policy to how other states’ internal politics shape their engagement with contemporary China. I argue that leaders of small developing countries can seek greater domestic authority by acquiring “prestige projects,” defined as highly visible, nationally salient international development projects. After identifying a set of Chinese government-financed prestige projects using a new dataset on Chinese development finance, I show that these projects are overwhelmingly concentrated in the world’s poorest and smallest countries, and that their implementation may be associated with higher public support for recipient governments. I also find that China’s government supplies more prestige projects to states that increase their support for Chinese diplomatic objectives.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365956
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