The Web of Power: How Elite Networks Shaped War and China
Title: The Web of Power: How Elite Networks Shaped War and China
(Bai Ying, Ruixue Jia, Jiaojiao Yang)
Abstract: Scholars have argued that powerful individuals can influence the path of a nation's development. Yet, the process through which individuals affect macro-level political economy outcomes remains unclear. This study uses the deadliest civil war in history, the Taiping Rebellion (1850--1864), to elucidate how one individual---Zeng Guofan---employed his personal elite networks to organize an army that suppressed the rebellion, and how these networks consequently affected the power distribution of the nation. Two findings stand out: (i) counties with more elites in Zeng's pre-war networks experienced more soldier deaths after he took power; and (ii) the post-war political power shifted significantly toward the home counties of these very elites, which created a less-balanced national-level power distribution. Our findings highlight the role of elite networks that propagate individual-level influences to shape national politics and the distribution of power in a society.