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Studying Deng Tuo: The Academic Politician by Timothy Cheek Philip Kuhn, as he was preparing to start a year of research in China on the Qing bureaucracy, was asked about the problem of access to materials. He replied, "I can't lose. I'm going there to study Chinese bureaucratic behavior. If officials stop me from getting into the archives, then, I'll study them stopping me!" Second only to bureaucratic b~.havior, American scholars doing research in the People's Republic are most· likely to meet intellectuals. For those of us studying intellect~als, we have found that our historical topics and China's present overlap. We have had ten years now, since the normalization of relations to go personally to meet and interview our subjects and their colleagues. What have we learned about intellectuals in China? What we have learned can be organized into three categories: we have learned more about our subjects, our methodology, and about our new colleagues. I have been studying one Chinese intellectual, Deng Tuo. Most students of modern Chinese history know of him as the first victim of the Cultural Revolution, as the leader of the "Three Family Village" which Yao Wenyuan--himself now a member of his own involuntary association, the "Gang of Four' --denounced in 1966. Deng Tuo is best known in China as the founding editor of People's Daily. He joined the CCP in 1930, served as the chief propagandist in the Jin Cha Ji Border Region during the war years. and was secretary for cui ture and education in the Beijing Party Committee when he died. Though raised in the traditional elite culture of a Qing scholar-official family in Fuzhou, Deng Tuo was from 1937 a Party official. Thus, today we contrast him with Wu Han, the subject of Mary Mazur's paper, and call Deng Tuo "the academic politician." Our Subjects What have we learned about our subjects? I began working on Deng Tuo in 1978, two years before I first went to China. Indeed, the other major change in Chinese studies of the past decade-- the flood of new materials (especially reminiscence literature refuting the Cultural Revolution)--had only just begun to appear when I was first writing on Deng Tuo. Thus, my early work can serve as a base line. It was miserably wrong. Freed from the debilitating constraints of sufficient data, I fancied myself a young Joe Levenson 1 who could see through the contradiction in Deng Tuo's life which he himself could not see: viz to put Levenson 1 s Liang Qichao on his head, Deng Tuo was intellectually attached but emotionally alienated from the future--Communism. I maintained that he never reconciled his elite life-style as a modern day scholar-official and artistic esthete with his proletarian political commitments. That was a half-baked seminar paper best forgotten. But I was not alone. Those with more experience than I expressed similar, though better researched, views. Peter Moody has called Deng Tuo and Wu Han "Marxian Confucian"--Marxists at work and in their minds, but somehow truly Confucian at heart.[1] Simon Leys and Merle Goldman have seen the influence of traditional scholarly integrity and May Fourth liberal ideals in these men.[2] What I have learned from my time in China is to doubt all these opinions. There are certainly grains of truth in them, but this 1970s view of intellectual resistance to. Mao's cultural revolution (in general. not just the political movement of the late 1960s) is roundly rejected by DengTuo 's family and colleagues, and I do not see such v.iews in his published work.[3] I believe Mary Maz~r has found a similar case in Wu Han. Deng Tuo's colleagues' view of him and his role in China's intellectual life is summed up by General Nie Rongzhen, his old boss from Jin Cha Ji: Deng Tuo was a great propagandist and trained an entire generation of propagandists for the Party.[4] So, the first thing I got from my work in China was a headache. What was Deng Tuo, and intellectuals like him? A "Marxian Confucian"? A Liberal? A dedicated Communist...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 1-15
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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