2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 111

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Session 111: Individual Papers: Cultural Revolutions

Chair: Martin K. Whyte, Harvard University, USA

Urban Transformation during China's Cultural Revolution: the Case of Hangzhou (1966-1976)
Zhu Qian, University of Waterloo, Canada

This paper examines the urban socio-spatial transformation that took place during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Since the mid-1960s, the dominant leftist ideology had stressed extreme frugality, war preparation, and heavy industry. Under these circumstances, the state adopted a series of radical programs that politicized resource allocation and organizational coordination. While many of the works on China’s urbanization focus on the post-reform situation, studies on China’s urban transformation in the pre-reform era are often conducted in a broad-brush approach, those with a close account of the Cultural Revolution period are extremely scarce. By using governmentality as an analytical tool to conceptualize the dynamic relationship between the state and urban space transformation, the paper examines Hangzhou as a primary case to demonstrate three different but interrelated development modes which formed residential, industrial, and public space landscapes of the city. The turmoil does not mean that the state loosened its control over the economy and society. Collectivization and nationalization led to a space production process with limited local government involvement but tremendous impact of state work units. It consequently resulted in a fragmented social-spatial urban form. The urban construction administrative structure of interdepartmental resource dependencies gave rise to anarchic and chaotic urbanization in the city that was composed of numerous cellular communities.

Scar Metaphor and Working through the Trauma of the Cultural Revolution: Scar Literature from 1977 to1983
Min Yang, Sarah Lawrence College, USA

In this article I study scar metaphor, or more precisely, metaphorical thoughts in Scar literature (1977-1983) and reception in the post-Mao period. What is called “Scar literature” was the first public literary movement in China after the Cultural Revolution. It consists primarily of short stories that told of traumatic memories and experiences common to the Chinese people who lived through Cultural Revolution. A major contribution of Scar literature to Chinese literature and the post-Mao society is to project the “scar” metaphor into social discourses. One important question that previous studies have ignored is: what is the social function of the scar metaphor in the Chinese people’s confronting and denying the trauma of the Cultural Revolution? This paper contributes to examining the scar metaphor (as well as other metaphors) developed or transformed within the stories of Scar literature. It also studies metaphorical thoughts at two levels: the individual level through the study of protagonists and the social level through studying Scar literature’s wide usage and its reception. Considering scar metaphor and its reception in the context of the social spectrum of Chinese people’s psychology after Mao, this paper suggests that the scar metaphor is formed, manifested, and accepted in Chinese people’s working through the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. In addition, the target and source of the scar metaphor are transformed both within the stories and in the post-Mao society, and, importantly at the social level, such transformation is entangled with Chinese people’s working through trauma ideologically.

The Great Leap Forward to a Great Famine: A Case Study of Baoying County, 1958-1960
Woyu Liu, Nanjing University, China

By the end of 1957, most rural areas of China had established a collective farming system. Soon after, Mao Zedong launched the Great Leap Forward Movement in 1958, which ended in a great famine claiming the lives of tens of millions of farmers. Due to the strict control of media and archives by the Chinese government, however, this famine was largely kept secret from the outside world until the late 1980s. Ever since then, scholars have published many articles and books on the famine, but most archives pertaining to the topic are still restricted to general researchers because of their political sensitivity. This leaves plenty of room for further discussions of some less studied problems, such as the regional variations of the famine, the roles played by the Party cadres at different levels, and the responses of ordinary farmers faced with famine. In an attempt to explore these problems, I propose to study the Great Leap Forward Movement and the great famine of Baoying County in East China near Shanghai. With mild climate and substantial water resources, Baoying was traditionally known as “the home to fish and rice,” but at least 50,000 farmers died in 1959-1960. However, there has been no in-depth study of this incident. Based on some 2,000 pages of unpublished data in local archives, I will trace the development of Baoying’s famine and reveal how the tragedy came into being. Furthermore, large volumes of confidential documents also allow me to look at the incident from the inside perspectives of the Party cadres, and to examine the intricate interactions between the county leaders, commune cadres and ordinary farmers throughout the crisis.

The World and the Globe in The People’s Republic of China
Zachary Scarlett, Butler University, USA

Although the Chinese government was largely isolated following the Sino-Soviet split, this paper argues that constructing and maintaining global space became increasingly important in the People’s Republic of China during the 1960s. This new global space often manifested itself in mass political rallies and later in Red Guard newspapers during the Cultural Revolution. The CCP and the Red Guards used global narratives to imagine China at the center of the many anti-colonial and youth movements that proliferated during the 1960s. In this paper, I define global narratives as a sustained discussion of anti-imperialism and anti-revisionism, global revolution, foreign youth movements and the significance of Mao Zedong Thought. For example, throughout the 1960s, the War in Vietnam and anti-colonialism in Africa were incorporated into the Chinese metropole in order to demonstrate the importance of continued domestic struggle. Elsewhere, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States was seen as a possible receptor for China’s revolutionary discourse. This had a profound affect on Chinese politics. I argue that by imagining China atop a global hierarchy of revolution, the CCP and later the Red Guards demonstrated China’s centrality in the world, justified the violence of the Cultural Revolution, criticized perceived enemies of the party, and projected Mao Zedong’s cult of personality across national borders. Contact with the outside world and global space were therefore inversely proportional. As China became more isolated, the CCP was able to apply a malleable imagined global space that conformed to the realities of the People’s Republic of China.