DP15187 States and Wars: China's Long March towards Unity and its Consequences, 221 BC - 1911 AD

Author(s): Shuo Chen, Debin Ma
Publication Date: August 2020
Keyword(s): Agrarian-nomadic warfare, China, Country Size, state formation, warfare
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15187

We examine the long-term pattern of state formation and the mythical historical Chinese unity under one single political regime based on the compilation of a large geocoded annual data series of political regimes and incidences of warfare between 221 BC and 1911 AD. By classifying our data sets into two types of regimes - agrarian and nomadic - and three types of warfare - agrarian/nomadic, agrarian/agrarian and internal rebellions - and applying an Autoregressive Distributed Lag (ARDL) model, we find that nomadic-agrarian warfare and internal rebellion strengthens unification but agrarian/agrarian warfare entrenches fragmentation. Our research highlights the combination of China's precocious ideology of a single unified ruler, environmental circumscription on the easternmost end of Eurasia and persistent agrarian-nomadic warfare as the driving force behind China's eventual unity. We further discuss the long-run implications of Chinese unity on economic performance in a global context.