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Modern China Lecture Series featuring Taisu Zhang: The Ideological Foundations of Qing Taxation: Belief Systems, Politics, and Institutions

November 3, 2022 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm

Speaker: Taisu Zhang, Professor of Law and History, Yale University

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. This book 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, the book 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, in the Qing case by artificially limiting the production of economic information that could have been used to challenge fiscal conservatism.

Taisu Zhang is a Professor of Law at Yale Law School and works on comparative legal and economic history, private law theory, and contemporary Chinese law and politics. His first book, The Laws and Economics of Confucianism: Kinship and Property in Pre-Industrial China and England, was published by Cambridge University Press, and received the 2018 Presidents Award from the Social Science History Association and the 2018 Gaddis Smith Book Prize from the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. A second book, The Ideological Foundations of the Qing Fiscal State, is in progress. He has published articles and book chapters on a wide array of topics, winning awards from several academic organizations, and is a regular essayist on Chinese law, society, and politics in media outlets.

Zhang is a Global Faculty member at Peking University Law School and is the current president of the International Society for Chinese Law and History. He has also taught at the Duke University School of Law, the University of Hong Kong, Brown University, and the Tsinghua University School of Law.  He holds a secondary appointment at Yale as Professor of History.

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November 3, 2022
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Room S030, CGIS South

1730 Cambridge St
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 United States

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