Peter A Allard School of Law

A Theory of Power Structure and Institutional Compatibility: China vs. Europe Revisited

Coauthors: Ruixue Jia (LSE/UCSD), Gérard Roland (UC Berkeley), Yang Xie (UC Riverside)

Despite a large consensus among economists on the strong interdependence and synergy between pro-development institutions, how should one understand why Imperial China, with weaker rule of law and property rights, gave the commoners more opportunities to access elite status than Premodern Europe, for example via the civil service exam and the absence of hereditary titles? Supported by rich historical narratives, we show that these institutional differences reflect more general differences in the power structure of society: (1) the Ruler enjoyed weaker absolute power in Europe; (2) the People were more on par with the Elites in China in terms of power and rights. Based on these narratives, we build a game-theoretical model and analyze how the power structure can shape the stability of an autocratic rule. If we read greater absolute power of the Ruler as conditioning more of the power and rights of the ruled on the Ruler's will, we show that a more symmetric Elite–People relationship can stabilize autocratic rule. If absolute power is stronger, this stabilizing effect will be stronger, and the Ruler's incentive to promote such symmetry will be greater. The theory explains the power structure differences between Imperial China and Premodern Europe, as well as specific institutions such as the bureaucracy in China and the role of cities in Europe. It is also consistent with the observation that autocratic rule was more stable in Imperial China than in Premodern Europe.

Register Online

Download the event poster (PDF)

About the Speaker

Yang Xie

Yang Xie Assistant Professor
University of California, Riverside

Yang Xie is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of California, Riverside. He is also affiliated with the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego as a Non-resident Scholar. Interested in political, comparative, and resource economics, he has published articles in the Journal of Development Economics, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, and Journal of Comparative Economics.

Website: https://yangxie.weebly.com/

 


  • Centre for Asian Legal Studies
  • General Audience
  • All Students
  • Alumni
  • Research Talks
Peter A. Allard School of Law UBC Crest The official logo of the University of British Columbia. Urgent Message An exclamation mark in a speech bubble. Arrow An arrow indicating direction. Caret A month-view page from a calendar. Caret An arrowhead indicating direction. Contact A page from a rolodex. Facebook The logo for the Facebook social media service. Information The letter 'i' in a circle. Instagram The logo for the Instagram social media service. Instagram An arrow exiting a rectangle. Linkedin The logo for the LinkedIn social media service. Mail An envelope. Minus A minus sign. Telephone An antique telephone. Play A media play button. Plus A plus symbol indicating more or the ability to add. Rss The logo for the Reddit social media service. Rss A symbol with radiating bars indicating an RSS feed. Search A magnifying glass. Twitter The logo for the Twitter social media service. Youtube The logo for the YouTube video sharing service.