An essential feature of beijing's long history as China's imperial capital was the ability to feed its population despite a geographical location distinctly unfavorable to agricultute. For all ancient and modern states, provisioning the capital is not only a matter of pride and prestige but a question of survival. The failure to feed civil officials, military supporters, and the urban population that serves them is a visible sign of a government's inadequacy and easily leads to political unrest. For these reasons, all states have tended to favor the food security of their cities, and especially their capital cities. In this China has no claim to uniqueness.
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Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1999