Author: Yuhua Wang, Professor of Government, Harvard University
About the book
This book “seeks to unite Chinese history with social science” (Mark Jacobsen, The Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs) by offering a new theory for understanding the process of state-building in imperial China. Why did short-lived emperors often rule over a strong state while long-lasting emperors governed a weak one? Wang believes that the answer to a question that’s long puzzled Chinese historians may lie in the construction of kinship networks of social elites, and the different dynamics created between coherent and fragmented elites. His thesis, termed the sovereign’s dilemma, refers to the oppositional relationship between the strength of the collective state and the potential that this creates for deposing the current emperor. He also explores various exogenous shocks, like the Taiping Rebellion, that have occurred throughout Chinese history and allowed for restructuring the social order to benefit rulers — and weaken the state. The book examines how distinct social orientations shaped the Chinese state, and vice versa, and looks at how the ruler’s pursuit of power by fragmenting the elites became the final culprit for imperial China’s fall.
October 11, 2022 Princeton University Press