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The Ideological Foundations of Qing Taxation

Headshot of the speaker with talk title and location information
Thursday, February 23, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Taisu Zhang (Professor of Law, Yale Law School)
APSI Speaker Series

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.

In a new book, Taisu Zhang 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, Zhang 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.