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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 deployment of cultural resources – during their revolutionary rise to power and afterward. Skillful “cultural positioning” and “cultural patronage” on the part of Mao Zedong, his comrades, and successors helped to construct a polity in which a foreign political system came to be accepted as familiarly “Chinese.” Illustrated by numerous colorful images, Perry’s talk traces this process through a case study of the Anyuan coal mine, where Mao and other early Communist leaders mobilized an influential labor movement at the beginning of their revolution. Once known as “China’s Little Moscow,” Anyuan came over time to serve as a touchstone of “political correctness” that symbolized a distinctively Chinese revolutionary tradition. Perry explores the contested meanings of that tradition as contemporary Chinese debate their revolutionary past in search of a new political future.
Elizabeth J. Perry is the Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government and Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. She is a comparativist with special expertise in the politics of China. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, she sits on the editorial boards of nearly a dozen major scholarly journals, holds honorary professorships at six Chinese universities, and has served as the President of the Association for Asian Studies. Professor Perry’s research focuses on popular protest and grassroots politics in modern and contemporary China.
Her books include Rebels and Revolutionaries in North China, 1845-1945 (1980); Chinese Perspectives on the Nien Rebellion (1981); Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China (1992); Proletarian Power: Shanghai in the Cultural Revolution (1997); Silence and Voice in the Study of Contentious Politics (2001); Mao’s Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China (2011); and Anyuan: Mining China’s Revolutionary Tradition (2012). Her book, Shanghai on Strike: the Politics of Chinese Labor (1993), won the John King Fairbank prize from the American Historical Association. Her article, “Chinese Conceptions of Rights” (2008), won the Heinz Eulau award from the American Political Science Association.