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China's Sent-Down Generation

Public Administration and the Legacies of Mao's Rustication Program

Helena K. Rene

Publication Year: 2013

During China's Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao Zedong's "rustication program" resettled 17 million urban youths, known as "sent downs," to the countryside for manual labor and socialist reeducation. This book, the most comprehensive study of the program to be published in either English or Chinese to date, examines the mechanisms and dynamics of state craft in China, from the rustication program's inception in 1968 to its official termination in 1980 and actual completion in the 1990s.

Rustication, in the ideology of Mao's peasant-based revolution, formed a critical component of the Cultural Revolution's larger attack on bureaucrats, capitalists, the intelligentsia, and "degenerative" urban life. This book assesses the program's origins, development, organization, implementation, performance, and public administrative consequences. It was the defining experience for many Chinese born between 1949 and 1962, and many of China's contemporary leaders went through the rustication program.

The author explains the lasting impact of the rustication program on China's contemporary administrative culture, for example, showing how and why bureaucracy persisted and even grew stronger during the wrenching chaos of the Cultural Revolution. She also focuses on the special difficulties female sent-downs faced in terms of work, pressures to marry local peasants, and sexual harassment, predation, and violence. The author's parents were both sent downs, and she was able to interview over fifty former sent downs from around the country, something never previously accomplished.

China's Sent-Down Generation demonstrates the rustication program's profound long-term consequences for China's bureaucracy, for the spread of corruption, and for the families traumatized by this authoritarian social experiment. The book will appeal to academics, graduate and undergraduate students in public administration and China studies programs, and individuals who are interested in China's Cultural Revolution era.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: Public Management and Change series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

This book is about the public administration of the 1968–78 Chinese Cultural Revolution “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” program for socialist reeducation that sent seventeen million urban Chinese youth to rural communes, state and military farms, and the Inner Mongolian grasslands for periods ranging from a few years to life—or death. These youth, known as sent-downs,...

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pp. xv-xvi

A research project of this magnitude creates a debt of gratitude to the many individuals who provided help, guidance, and assistance along the way. I could not have undertaken the research without generous financial aid from the Ann and Neil Kerwin PhD Fellowship at American University (Washington, DC). Neither could it have been completed without the willingness of my fifty- four ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xvii-xviii

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1 The Problem: How Was China Able to Send Seventeen Million Urban Youth to the Countryside during the Cultural Revolution?

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pp. 1-14

In 1978 Susan Shirk, a noted China scholar, asked a probing question about the Chinese Cultural Revolution program that ultimately produced a “lost generation” by sending seventeen million urban youth to live on rural communes, military and state farms, and the Inner Mongolian grasslands. These youth, who were “sent- down to the countryside” for indefi nite periods, including life,...

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2 Administering Economic Development: A Prelude to the Cultural Revolution and Rustication

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pp. 15-36

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), founded on October 1, 1949, is often referred to as a “party- state” because the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the formal governmental (state) units, at both the national and local levels, are fused and indistinct. In large part, the party’s domination of the state is maintained by staffi ng the organizations that compose the government with...

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3 The Politics of the Cultural Revolution (1965–67): Toppling Bureaucrats, Perduring Bureaucracy

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pp. 37-74

This chapter focuses on the continuing struggles between the Maoist Marxians and the Liu-led Chinese Weberians that partly defi ned the Cultural Revolution. It follows chapter 2 in showing that the movement toward rational public administration, and bureaucratization in particular, was a central facet of Chinese politics in the Mao era. In so doing, the chapter adds another dimension to the...

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4 Rustication: Policy and Administrative Implementation

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pp. 75-102

In many respects the Cultural Revolution culminated in the unfolding of the rustication program from 1967 to 1978.1 During that period, rustication represented Mao’s last stand in the effort to rid China of the elitist tendencies of bureaucracy and technocracy and return to the revolutionary ideal of building a communist society based on the peasantry. Rustication also offered promise of defusing the ...

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5 Public Administration and the Sent-Down Experience

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pp. 103-162

This chapter expands on the broad overview presented in chapter 4 by explaining the role of public administration and administrators in the sent- down experience as recounted by my interviewees. It examines each phase of the sentdown process from the overall administrative organization to how urban youth were selected, induced to comply, sent to locations, transported, settled in the ...

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6 Conclusion: Rustication as Public Administration

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pp. 163-180

The Cultural Revolution failed to achieve its goal of reducing the infl uence of bureaucratization and bureaucrats in China. By the close of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping to leadership of the CCP, the Chinese Weberians had clearly prevailed over the Maoist Marxians. Rustication contributed to an expansion in the size and scope of bureaucracy during the...

Appendix A: Interviewee Profiles

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pp. 181-210

Appendix B: Interview Schedule

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pp. 211-214


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pp. 215-216


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pp. 217-222


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pp. 223-229

E-ISBN-13: 9781589019881
E-ISBN-10: 1589019881
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589019874

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 2 text boxes, 7 b&w photos, 3 figures, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Public Management and Change series