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Political Science and Political Economy Research Seminar

How (not) to Solve the Guardianship Dilemma: Counterbalancing and the Consequences of Military Control in Medieval China

Erik Wang (NYU)

Tuesday 21 November 2023 14:00 - 15:30

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as in person or as hybrid (online and in person) events. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, in-person seminars are open to the public.

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom if the event is hybrid.

About this event

Counterbalancing, a strategy to strengthen control of the military by weakening the command authority within it, is prevalent across many parts of the world. Yet, few studies have systematically examined the benefits and costs of this strategy at the micro-level. We exploit a unique historical setting to evaluate how counterbalancing affects the competence and loyalty of the military. Using geocoded data from archival and archaeological sources, we study a reform in China’s Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE) that fragmented the military commissioners’ authority over their armies. Difference-in-differences analyses document that the reform reduced the military’s threat to the regime: commissioner-led rebellions decreased. However, it reduced the military’s effectiveness, evidenced by an increase in soldier-led mutinies within the military, a higher probability of defeat in battles, and an increase in civilian uprisings against the regime. Our findings highlight the sharp tradeoffs of military control in settings with strong military corporate interest.

The Political Science and Political Economy (PSPE) research group at the LSE brings together faculty and PhD students who do quantitative and/or formal research on political institutions, political behaviour, public policy, and political economy.

The PSPE Research Seminar provides a venue for researchers (mostly from outside of the LSE) to present their work.

These seminars are held on Tuesdays in term time at 14.00-15.30, both ONLINE AND IN PERSON in room SAL 3.05, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar coordinator: Mathilde Emeriau

Contact to be added to the mailing list and to recieve the zoom link.

For further information please contact Maddie Giles: