East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

Feb 20 | Kevin Weng, “Coup-Proofing to Victory: Military Effectiveness and the Puzzle of Nationalist China, 1937-1949”




“Coup-Proofing to Victory: Military Effectiveness

and the Puzzle of Nationalist China, 1937-1949″



Kevin Weng

UChicago Political Science PhD Student

Feb 20, Wed 12:00-1:30 pm

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.

Pizza will be provided


Conventional wisdom argues that the militaries of autocratic regimes engaged in coup-proofing are, on average, less effective at fighting conventional wars. However, such theories fail to account for the empirical puzzle of Nationalist China, which managed to sustain a surprisingly effective war effort against Imperial Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War. I argue that – contrary to existing theories which point to coup-proofing and military politicization as the primary determinants of battlefield (in)effectiveness – variations in the military performance of the National Revolutionary Army can be traced back to the Guomindang government’s shifting dependence on either land rents or customs duties & foreign financing. By developing the extractive infrastructure which allowed for an expansion of the land tax, the Guomindang increased the logistical capacities of the Nationalist state, which in turn led to enhanced battlefield effectiveness. In contrast, a re-orientation towards depending on customs collections and American Lend-Lease aid during the later stages of the war led to a more limited logistical network, thereby reducing battlefield effectiveness. To demonstrate my argument’s claims, I rely on historical process-tracing of the National Revolutionary Army’s military campaigns from 1937-1949, while drawing upon archival evidence collected from the Second Historical Archives of China, Academia Historica, The Hoover Archives, & the U.S. National Archives.

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* Questions and comments can be addressed to the student coordinators Jongyoon Baik: baikjongyoon@uchicago.edu and Ji Xue: jixue@uchicago.edu

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The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.

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