From Kins to Comrades: Rural Clan Society and the Rise of Communism in China
A key paradox of social revolutions is that despite their radical, modernist claims, success often requires effective mobilization of the peasantry, who are typically conservative and inward-looking. This article studies how traditional institutions of rural society can help movement entrepreneurs mobilize a modern revolution. Using newly digitized data on over 54,000 family genealogies and 500,000 revolutionary martyrs from 637 uprisings nationwide, we examine the role of clan and kinship networks during the incipient stage of the Chinese Communist Revolution (1927--1936). Triple-difference estimates suggest that local organizers mobilized significantly more co-clan members to join uprisings than non-co-clans. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the characteristics of organizers’ clans and the local clan structure are among the most decisive factors in predicting uprising occurrence and outcome. These findings highlight the subtle yet significant linkage between agrarian institutions and modern revolutions and offer a new perspective on the origin of Chinese communism.
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About the Speaker
Junyan Jiang is the Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. Professor Jiang studies comparative politics and political economy, focusing on the politics of elites, organizations, and ideas. Some of his current research projects explore the formation and transformation of political elite networks in China, the interplay between formal rules and informal power in bureaucratic systems, and the dynamics of ideology in changing societies. His work has been published in American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Development Economics, and World Politics, among others. He has received the 2020 Gregory Luebbert Article Award for the best article in comparative politics from the American Political Science Association (APSA), and honorable mentions for the 2016 Sage Paper Award for the best paper presented at APSA Annual Meetings and the 2018 Mancur Olson Award for the best dissertation in political economy.