Making Enemies: Land Reform and State Violence in China

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2025-05-25

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2023

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Abstract

Scholars of comparative politics have long recognized that coercive capacity is critical to the resilience and survival of authoritarian regimes. What explains the subnational variation in coercive capacity and repression intensity in authoritarian regimes? This paper traces the origin of state coercive capacity by linking land reform with state violence. I argue that the radicalism of land reforms is reflected in the elite configuration of coercive institutions, which subsequently shape repression outcomes. Using a novel dataset on land reform (1950-1955) and state violence in seven provinces of Southern China, I find that, counties that expropriated more land during the land reform recruited more poor and uneducated peasants into the local Party branches as well as more peasants into the Peasant Associations. Moreover, Peasant Associations that recruited more members would generate more ”fourtypes” by 1957. The findings contribute to the understanding of state violence in authoritarian regimes by probing the formation of its institutional foundation.

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Pan, Xinru (2023). Making Enemies: Land Reform and State Violence in China. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27892.

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