Title: Political legitimacy and stability: the impact of earthquakes on conflict in historical China
Speaker: Ying Bai, CUHK
Time: October 9th, 10:30-12:00
Venue: online seminar
About the speaker
Prof. Bai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He got his Ph.D. degree at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His research interests encompass development economics, economic history, and political economy of China. Currently, he is examining China's long-term economic backwardness using uniquely constructed data sets. Some of his recent works have appeared in Econometrica, the Journal of the European Economic Association, and the Review of Economics and Statistics.
In historical China, because rulers ascribed their legitimacy to a heavenly mandate, natural calamities like earthquakes were seen as signs that the ruler's legitimacy had been weakened. I therefore proxy legitimacy shock by quake-induced minor shaking (i.e., strong enough to be felt by the population but too weak to cause material damage to persons or objects) and show that it causes significant political instability (as measured by conflict). This effect is much larger in regions with higher levels of ethnolinguistic fragmentation, suggesting that legitimacy shock can serve as a coordination device for overcoming the problems inherent in collective action.