The Ideological Foundations of Qing Taxation
Taisu Zhang (Professor of Law, Yale Law School)
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.