March 28, 2009

China During the Mao and Post-Mao Periods

A People'S Perspective

  • Saturday, March 28, 2009
  • 1:00pm-6:00pm
  • SFU Harbour Centre 
    515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, Room 2270
  • The period of almost six decades since the Chinese people took "the first step on a thousand li journey" neatly divides into two near halves. The first, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, was the period engaged in building socialism. The second, the post-Mao period, is characterized by a systematic negation of the gains of the first half, by restoring capitalism internally, and by latching the Chinese economy to the vagaries of international capital.

    This sixty-years long experience of the Chinese society and its people has thrown up very many significant questions - of interest certainly to students of societal transformation. What promise did the 1949 Revolution hold for the peasants, workers and other toiling masses of China, and to what extent was the promise delivered? What precisely was the nature of Worker-Peasant Alliance practiced during the Mao period, and how did the practice of "walking on two legs" translate into an integrated economic development, both in agriculture and industry? Why did the project of building socialism derail so soon after the death of Mao in 1976? Is it because China, with its huge peasant base and small proletariat, was not a suitable society for building socialism, and the project was doomed to failure? If not, what forces were operative within Chinese society and the Communist Party that brought about the end of the socialist project and restoration of capitalism? Was the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao a horror as it has been made out to be, or was it a successful experiment in empowering the broad masses of Chinese people?

    The March 28 Symposium will attempt to deal with these and related questions. These will be looked at from the perspective of the ordinary Chinese people: the peasants, the workers and other toilers. As the vast majority of Chinese population, how did they do during the Mao period, and what has been the impact on their lives with the policies followed during the second half of the sixty-year period.

    Co-sponsors: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Institute for Humanities, School of Communication, School for International Studies, all at Simon Fraser University