Did the Communists Contribute to China’s Rural Growth?
50 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2016 Last revised: 1 Nov 2019
Date Written: October 2019
The communist revolution brought unprecedented changes to China. Yet there is no consensus on its role in the history of China’s modern economic growth. We investigate whether local communist party membership affected developmental outcomes from 1957–78 (the Maoist period) and 1978–85 (the reform period). Focusing on Sichuan, China’s most populous province, we use the Long March as an instrument to tease out causal effects. We find that counties with more communist members made larger strides in educational attainment, road construction, and agricultural mechanization during the Maoist period. However, these counties recorded faster output growth only after 1978. Our findings provide empirical support to field studies conducted by sociologists and historians who argue that the communists improved the organizational infrastructure in China’s countryside. Furthermore, we highlight the futility of solving collective action problems without heeding private incentives.
Keywords: Political Economy of Transition, Growth and Development, China
JEL Classification: D70, H10, O43, P20, P32
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