China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
How do we know what we know about Communist China? How does the party-state know what it knows? Shifting from public opinion to official epistemology, the second half of our double panel investigates the central role of internal paperwork and archives in authoritarian governance, and offers new insights into the historical interpretation of archival records. In the first half, Lu and Chang explore the porous boundary between bureaucratic paperwork and cadre dossiers to shed light on the inner workings of the CCP’s mechanisms of control. Focusing on the fate of Republican records in Mao’s China, Lu examines how the PRC archival system emerged from the crucible of the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, when paperwork of the previous regime was used to extract intelligence on class enemies and civilian administration. Chang’s paper focuses on the product of Maoist archival efforts by exploring how cadre dossiers, compiled from archival records and other information, facilitated party control over its rank and file. In the second half, Jiang and Smith deal with the issues of archival access and use. Jiang considers internal news bulletins as a genre and reconstructs the ways in which they informed party leaders and shaped policy outcomes. Smith’s presentation rethinks the nature of secrecy and argues that many of the most troubling revelations about the PRC have been in the published sources all along—not in the still-classified archives. Taken together, our panel interrogates both empirically and methodologically the dynamic relationship between statecraft and knowledge production in twentieth-century China.