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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.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.