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Mining China's Revolutionary Tradition

Elizabeth Perry

Publication Year: 2012

How do we explain the surprising trajectory of the Chinese Communist revolution? Why has it taken such a different route from its Russian prototype? An answer, Elizabeth Perry suggests, lies in the Chinese Communists’ creative development and deployment of cultural resources – during their revolutionary rise to power and afterwards. Skillful "cultural positioning" and "cultural patronage," on the part of Mao Zedong, his comrades and successors, helped to construct a polity in which a once alien Communist system came to be accepted as familiarly "Chinese." Perry traces this process through a case study of the Anyuan coal mine, a place where Mao and other early leaders of the Chinese Communist Party mobilized an influential labor movement at the beginning of their revolution, and whose history later became a touchstone of "political correctness" in the People’s Republic of China. Once known as "China’s Little Moscow," Anyuan came over time to symbolize a distinctively Chinese revolutionary tradition. Yet the meanings of that tradition remain highly contested, as contemporary Chinese debate their revolutionary past in search of a new political future.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-11


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xv

The origins of this book can be traced to a conversation over dinner in the winter of 2003. Having just come across Professor Yu Jianrong’s impressive articles on peasant protest in rural Hunan, I invited him to Harvard to speak on his research. Over dinner at a Chinese restaurant after the lecture, Professor Yu asked if I knew why he had come to Harvard. ...


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pp. xvi-xviii

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pp. 1-14

The idea of a revolutionary tradition is inherently ironic. Revolutions are intended to overthrow traditions, not enshrine them. Yet nation-states born of revolution construct myths about their historical origins and political legacies that prove as powerful and persistent as they are contradictory and contested. ...

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1. Rehearsing Revolution

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pp. 15-45

Revolution does not take place in a cultural vacuum. Although the ultimate aim of revolution is a radical break with tradition and a wholesale reconfiguration of the political and social landscape, its objectives must be conveyed in terms sufficiently intelligible and attractive to engage a mass following. ...

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2. Teaching Revolution: The Strike of 1922

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pp. 46-77

Despite an accumulation of excellent scholarship on the Chinese Communist revolution, we are still hard-pressed to offer a compelling answer to a question that goes to the heart of explaining the revolution’s success: How did the intellectuals who founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) manage to cultivate a large and loyal following ...

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3. China's Little Moscow

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pp. 78-123

In the aftermath of the victorious 1922 strike, Anyuan shed its “Little Shanghai” moniker in favor of the new sobriquet of “China’s Little Moscow.” The notable successes of Li Lisan, Liu Shaoqi, and their comrades at Anyuan, together with the crushing defeats suffered by Communists elsewhere in China (epitomized by the February Seventh Massacre along the Jing-Han Railroad), ...

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4. From Mobilization to Militarization

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pp. 124-152

The demise of Little Moscow signaled a critical juncture not only in the development of the Anyuan labor movement but in the history of the Chinese revolution more broadly. The disintegration of the Anyuan experiment in the fall of 1925 was followed by a new phase of ruthless reprisals and mounting militarization in which the CCP’s previous stress on workers’ education ...

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5. Constructing a Revolutionary Tradition

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pp. 153-204

Like any state born from revolutionary struggle, the newly established People’s Republic of China was faced with the tricky problem of how to legitimate its origins without at the same time introducing incendiary ideas into the heads of restive citizens. This challenge of constructing a sanctified yet sanitized revolutionary tradition that would serve to reinforce the ruling authority ...

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6. Mao's Final Crusade: Purifying the Revolutionary Tradition

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pp. 205-246

In the spring of 1966, Mao Zedong launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.1 Intended to cultivate “revolutionary successors” by giving young people a taste of the hardships that the rapidly aging revolutionary generation had endured in the course of its battle for power, the new mass campaign was supposed to prevent Soviet-style revisionism by promoting authentic proletarian culture. ...

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7. Reforming the Revolutionary Tradition

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pp. 247-282

With the death of Chairman Mao and the dramatic arrest of his widow, Jiang Qing, and other members of her radical so-called Gang of Four in the fall of 1976, the Cultural Revolution decade drew to an official close. Three years later, Deng Xiaoping announced his historic program of “reform and opening” to revitalize the economy and reconnect China to the international community. ...

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pp. 283-296

The common characterization of Mao’s revolution as a struggle against Chinese culture, originating with the iconoclasm of the May Fourth era and culminating with Red Guard rampages against the “Four Olds” — Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas — has until quite recently discouraged serious investigation of the culture of the revolution itself. ...


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pp. 297-356


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pp. 357-360

Bibliography of English-Language Sources

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pp. 361-374


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pp. 375-392

E-ISBN-13: 9780520954038
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520271890

Page Count: 412
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes
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OCLC Number: 799766255
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Anyuan

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Subject Headings

  • Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng, China : West) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng, China : West) -- Economic conditions -- 20th century.
  • Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng, China : West) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Communism -- China -- Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng : West) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Revolutions -- Social aspects -- China -- Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng : West) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Political culture -- China -- Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng : West) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Social change -- China -- Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng : West) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Coal miners -- China -- Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng : West) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Labor movement -- China -- Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng : West) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Working class -- China -- Anyuan (Jiangxi Sheng : West) -- History -- 20th century.
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