How do we explain the surprising trajectory of the Chinese Communist revolution? Why has it taken such a different route from its Russian prototype? An answer, Elizabeth Perry suggests, lies in the Chinese Communists’ creative development and deployment of cultural resources – during their revolutionary rise to power and afterwards. Skillful “cultural positioning” and “cultural patronage,” on the part of Mao Zedong, his comrades and successors, helped to construct a polity in which a once alien Communist system came to be accepted as familiarly “Chinese.” Perry traces this process through a case study of the Anyuan coal mine, a place where Mao and other early leaders of the Chinese Communist Party mobilized an influential labor movement at the beginning of their revolution, and whose history later became a touchstone of “political correctness” in the People’s Republic of China. Once known as “China’s Little Moscow,” Anyuan came over time to symbolize a distinctively Chinese revolutionary tradition. Yet the meanings of that tradition remain highly contested, as contemporary Chinese debate their revolutionary past in search of a new political future.
Elizabeth Perry is Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government at Harvard University and Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. She is the author of many books, most recently: Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China and Patrolling the Revolution: Worker Militias, Citizenship and the Modern Chinese State.
“Meticulously researched and elegantly narrated. . . . It is a book well worth reading, both as a window into a crucial period and space of Chinese history and as a model of careful narrative argument.”—Carla Nappi New Bks In East Asian Stds
“This book is classic Perry -- elegantly and clearly written, based on rich and previously unexplored source material, full of human detail on political actors at the local level, presenting a gripping narrative and a clear analytical thrust. Perry’s account of Anyuan is fresh and original, making a convincing case for the area’s enduring contribution to the revolution.” - Joseph W. Esherick, UC San Diego, author of Ancestral Leaves