The Making of Bad Gentry: The Abolition of Keju, Local Governance and Anti-Elite Protests, 1902-1911
63 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2021
Date Written: February 18, 2021
This paper investigates the impact of the abolition of the civil service exam on rural local governance in early 20th century China. Before the abolition, local elites collected surtaxes that financed local public goods, but they were supervised by the state and could lose their candidacy for higher status if they engaged in corrupt behavior. This prospect of upward mobility (POUM) gave them incentives to behave well, which the abolition of the exam removed. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, we find that prefectures with a higher POUM before the abolition experienced more incidents of anti-elite protests after the abolition.
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