China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Industrial factories in Maoist China were faced with two contradictory tasks: revolution and production. During the Great Leap Forward, Mao called for party leadership and mass participation in factory production and management while putting forward ambitious targets that factory production consistently failed to meet. Then, the early 1960s witnessed a brief return of prioritizing production in the factories before revolution once again prevailed in the Cultural Revolution. So, how did the cycle of revolution and production reshape the factory production practices and organizational culture? What were the differences between the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution periods in terms of state-factory relations? Drawing on newly discovered local archives and internal documents, this paper provides a comparative analysis of continuity and change in factory institutions and organizational culture from the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution. Through a case study of regional iron foundries in Shanxi Province, it examines ways in which local factories participated in various political movements and their tactics in response to Mao’s evolving calls. It finds that memories of the earlier disasters in factory production caused cadres and workers to be much less radical in enforcing new revolutionary programs. Meanwhile, rather than treating the factory as a static institution, this research demonstrates that institutional change in regional factories should be seen as both evolutionary and transformative processes, in which earlier experience in the 1950s was built into – and laid the foundation for understanding – the outcomes in the late 1960s.