Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Date of Defense

5-6-2011

Graduate Advisor

David Brian Robertson

Committee

Dr Fung Hung-Gay

Dr David Kimball

Dr Kenneth Thomas

Abstract

Patterns of economic inequality across three Chinese regions-- the West, the Inland, and the Coastal area-- changed twice from 1949 to 2005. During the period 1949 to 1979 regional inequality decreased, and after 1979 inequality increased. Previous studies, including economic models, cultural studies, and international relations theory, cannot fully explain changes in Chinese regional inequality after 1949. This dissertation uses Institutional Theory (IT) to analyze the changing patterns of Chinese regional economic inequality after 1949. Analyzing economic data and political documents with IT, the dissertation shows that changes in Chinese political institutions, including political parties, policy-making agencies, and institutionalized ideologies, affected these two changes in regional inequality after 1949. The dissertation concludes that IT is necessary and sufficient to explain the shifts of regional inequality in post-1949 China; that is, the changes in political institutions influenced economic institutions which in turn affected economic outcomes. Moreover, this dissertation also indicates that IT may also be useful to explain regional inequality in countries that have institutional similarities with China.

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