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Image Credit: Cornell University Press.

China's rural modernization campaigns have tended to draw a hint of an eye roll from outside observers.

Yes, but: In her deeply researched new book, "Mobilizing for Development," Kristen Looney, an assistant professor of Asian studies and government at Georgetown University, argues that such campaigns have played a significant role in rural development, not just in China, but also in South Korea and Taiwan.

Key takeaways: “Campaigns, like social movements, can create, destroy, revitalize, or circumvent institutions," Looney writes.

  • "They are a powerful means of mobilizing resources for change and have been frequently used in Leninist systems as a check against bureaucratic ossification.”
  • Interestingly, rural modernization campaigns seem to have been more effective in Taiwan and South Korea than in China, according to Looney's research.

"Campaigns more easily spiral out of control in China," Looney told me in an interview, "because there are so few participatory institutions at the lower level, and because there is such a big gap between central control and local governance."

The big picture: Urban industrialization alone didn't do much to help the poor rural populations across several East Asian countries. Rather, Looney demonstrates, it was an active interventionist state that finally helped mobilize resources so rural areas could get a share of modern prosperity.

Go deeper

When U.S. politicians exploit foreign disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. political actors will keep weaponizing the impact of widespread foreign disinformation campaigns on American elections, making these operations that much more effective and attractive to Russia, China, Iran or other countries backing them.

Why it matters: Hostile powers’ disinformation campaigns aim to destabilize the U.S., and each time a domestic politician embraces them, it demonstrates that they work.

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.