China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Since the 1960s, one of the most fervently debated topics in the historiography of modern China has been the rise of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) power. While this scholarship has elucidated our understanding of how the CCP’s policies earned the rural population’s support, scholars’ representation of “the masses”—often as a homogenous group—has obscured the distinct constituencies that populated China’s vast hinterland, which included women, secret societies, children, and ethnic minorities. This panel showcases a new generation of scholarship that corrects this imbalance by bringing to light both the unique voices of these social groups, as well as the challenges they presented to the nascent socialist state. Qiong Liu argues that “loose women’s” participation in the pre-1949 Land Reform Movement helped to establish a new revolutionary morality emphasizing work ethic and sexual purity. Yupeng Jiao demonstrates how the CCP’s pacification strategies in formerly-held Nationalist territories led the rural population to designate its new masters as bandits. Kyle David argues that while the Party successfully mobilized children to contribute to war and revolution, youngsters used CCP rhetoric to undercut and challenge Party authority. Lastly, Benno Weiner bridges the 1949-divide, showing that pre-Liberation Tibetan elites in Qinghai’s pastoral grasslands shaped Party programs in unanticipated ways for their own benefit. Together, these papers illuminate the voices and lived experiences of marginalized social groups that are underrepresented in the historiography.