Zhang's "Ideological Foundations of Qing Taxation"

Taisu Zhang, Yale Law School, has published The Ideological Foundations of Qing Taxation: Belief Systems, Politics, and Institutions (Cambridge University Press):

How states develop the capacity to tax is a question of fundamental importance to political science, legal theory, economics, sociology, and history. Increasingly, scholars believe that China's relative economic decline in the 18th and 19th centuries was related to its weak fiscal institutions and limited revenue. This book argues that this fiscal weakness was fundamentally ideological in nature. Belief systems created through a confluence of traditional political ethics and the trauma of dynastic change imposed unusually deep and powerful constraints on fiscal policymaking and institutions throughout the final 250 years of China's imperial history. Through the Qing example, this book combs through several interaction dynamics between state institutions and ideologies. The latter shapes the former, but the former can also significantly reinforce the political durability of the latter. In addition to its historical analysis of ideological politics, this book makes a major contribution to the longstanding debate on Sino-European divergence.

Here are some encomia:

A theoretically elegant, evidence-rich, and innovative explanation for why imperial China declined and fell. The Ideological Foundations of Qing Taxation sheds light on the roots of the 'Great Divergence' in economic development between China and Europe. A tremendous achievement that deserves to be widely read.' Yuhua Wang, Professor of Government, Harvard University

'This book is a brilliant new take on comparative economic history. Skillfully integrating institutional analysis, economics, and political thought, Zhang provides us with an erudite, deeply learned account of the Qing's failure to expand tax capacity, drawing us into contemplation of a path not taken.' Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Distinguished Service Professor of International Law, University of Chicago

'In this refreshing and incisive work, Taisu Zhang shows us how the weakness of the late Qing regime depended less on structural constraints than on a specific worldview about the proper role of the state. Low taxation was a deliberate choice, made in response to the presumed lessons of history, and it would have far-reaching implications. This will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand long trends in Chinese political development.' David Stasavage, Julius Silver Professor, New York University

'In this characteristically ambitious book, Taisu Zhang looks for obstacles on China's path to modernization in a surprising place: tax capacity. He explains the unwillingness of China's nineteenth-century rulers to raise taxes neither in terms of eternal cultural values nor structural factors, but rather as the outcome of a specific type of conservatism that can be explained historically.' Michael Szonyi, Frank Wen-hsiung Wu Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University

--Dan Ernst

source http://legalhistoryblog.blogspot.com/2023/02/zhangs-ideological-foundations-of-qing.html


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