The telegraph was introduced to China in the late 19th century, a time when China also saw the rise of modern banks. Based on this historical context, this paper documents the importance of information technology in banking development. We construct a data set on the distributions of telegraph stations and banks across 287 prefectures between 1881 and 1936. The results show that the telegraph significantly expanded banks’ branch networks in terms of both number and geographic scope. The effect of the telegraph remains robust when we instrument it using proximity to the early military telegraph trunk.
Academic & Professional Qualification
- Ph.D., M. Phil., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
- B.A., Ocean University of China
Chicheng MA joined the University of Hong Kong in 2017. Previously he was associate professor of economics in Shandong University. Chicheng received his PhD in Social Science from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2011. His research interests are in economic history, development economics, and political economy.
- Economic History
- Development Economics
- Political Economy
- “Banking on the Confucian Clan: Why China Developed Financial Markets So Late”
(with Zhiwu Chen and Andrew Sinclair), The Economic Journal, forthcoming.
- “Knowledge Diffusion and Intellectual Change: When Chinese Literati Met European Jesuits”, Journal of Economic History, forthcoming.
- “The Telegraph and Modern Banking Development, 1881-1936”
(with Chen Lin, Yuchen Sun and Yuchen Xu), Journal of Financial Economics, 2021, 141(2), 730-749.
- “Long Live Keju! The Persistent Effects of China’s Civil Examination System”
(with Ting Chen and James Kung), The Economic Journal, 2020, 130(631), 2030-2064.
- “Friends with Benefits: How Political Connections Help to Sustain Private Enterprise Growth in China”
(with James Kung), Economica, 2018, 85(337), 41-74.
- “Can Cultural Norms Reduce Conflicts? Confucianism and Peasant Rebellions in Qing China”
(with James Kung), Journal of Development Economics, 2014, 111, 132-149.
- “Autarky and the Rise and Fall of Piracy in Ming China”
(with James Kung), The Journal of Economic History, 2014, 74(2), 509-534.
China's civil examination system (keju), an incredibly long-lived institution, has a persistent impact on human capital outcomes today. Using the variation in the density of jinshi—the highest qualification—across 278 Chinese prefectures in the Ming-Qing period (c. 1368–1905) to proxy for this effect, we find that a doubling of jinshi per 10,000 population leads to an 8.5% increase in years of schooling in 2010. The persistent effect of keju can be attributed to a multitude of channels including cultural transmission, educational infrastructure, social capital, and to a lesser extent political elites.