With the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party faced a major dilemma: How to obtain useful information, when public debates are massively restricted and loyalty counts for more than competence? To deal with the problem of information distortion, the CCP developed a two-pronged approach: Besides public news items that catered towards mobilizational aspects, it established distinct systems of feedback loops, which were strictly tasked to separate facts from opinion in order to provide the party leadership with an objective account of domestic and international events. Over time, a distinct system for controlled circulation of intelligence, an “information order”, took shape, which remained in place until the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution. Despite major disruptions, the system’s basic structures were kept alive even throughout these tumultuous years and continue to impact the CCP’s information politics until the present.
Moderated by JM Chris Chang, Asia in Action / Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow
Daniel Leese, Professor of Modern Chinese History, University of Freiburg
CHEN Min, Researcher, University of Freiburg
Amanda Shuman, Researcher and Lecturer, University of Freiburg
YANG Long, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Freiburg
This event is the first in a four-part series for WEAI's Asia in Action workshop series, "Remapping the Archives: New Histories of the PRC."
In the present moment, intensifying historical censorship in China–compounded by the lasting impacts of the pandemic–has severed access to the archive as we once knew it. The Modern China field has been forced to reckon with the possibility that access to PRC sources may soon become exceptional, and that its foreclosure portends a post-archival future. What is history without archive, or archive without history? The purpose of this four-part series is to explore promising responses by several scholars to this crisis in the archive, both as a means of illuminating new methodological directions in PRC history as well as reexamining perennial historical questions from a new aspect.