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Chinese Politics and Foreign Policy Series featuring Tyler Jost – Authoritarian Arming: Domestic Threats and the Origins of China’s Military Modernization
April 11 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Speaker: Tyler Jost, Assistant Professor of Political Science, International & Public Affairs and Watson Institute Assistant Professor of China Studies, Brown University.
Since the late 1980s, China has transformed the People’s Liberation Army by expanding its budget. Existing scholarship tends to attribute the expanding defense budget to China’s economic growth and external threats. This project instead explores the role of domestic politics. In order to guard against violent removal from power, autocrats use distributional and institutional concessions to win favor with coercive organizations, such as the military. As such, elevated threats to political survival — such as leader transitions or mass demonstrations — can lead to increases in defense budgets even in the absence of changes to economic growth or external threat. The project uses original data on China’s defense budgets since the late 1970s to evaluate candidate explanations. The preliminary analysis finds support for explanations emphasizing economic growth and domestic threats, but limited support that variation in external threats have systematically shaped China’s defense budgets.