China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Coming on the heels of a brutal civil war, the history of mid-20th century China is most often viewed as being shaped by a state-enforced ideology (either in PRC or ROC) from the top down. While recognizing the importance of ideological implementation, this panel attempts a broader perspective on the socialist transition. It explores multiple engagements with Marxist/Leninist theory, economic policy, and socialist transformation and aims to illuminate efforts by states and different sectors of society to use the midcentury transformation to pursue a wide range of goals. Felix Boecking argues that PRC economists used scholarly debates to create a new heterodox language of economics. Tehyun Ma demonstrates the persistence of Leninist policies in early postwar Taiwan, in both the Guomindang's land reform and its rectification campaign. Lu Yan investigates the way handicraft industry navigated the transformation to socialist cooperatives. Together, they suggest that, rather than being overwhelmed by a great revolution or mired in dilemma, national leaders, trained economists, and local workers viewed midcentury change as an opportunity for action. Whether for or against the Communist takeover, these participants in China's gigantic transformation were not passive bystanders, but activists who seized the moment and brought history to their side.