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Abstract

After the White Terror of 1927, the Chinese Communist Party relocated from Shanghai to the border region between Jiangxi and Fujian; one of the major challenges that the new Chinese Soviet Republic faced was transition from urban to rural. While political historians explored the ensuing conflicts between Soviet and Chinese influences, the lens of children’s history indicates that children’s organisations—and children themselves—freely adopted Soviet influences for their own local needs. By examining the visual and textual representation of children and by children in two major periodicals, this article suggests that children participated in the creation of a new political culture and imagination with important legacies for wartime propaganda.

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
Author:

Abstract

The launching of the reform program in 1978 went hand in hand with praising Chinese youth as the vanguard of the new struggle for modernising China. Yet, the official rhetoric projected the ideal youth, while being at odds with the complex reality of the early post-Mao era, when the experience of the Cultural Revolution (CR) turned out to be the main reason for the so-called ‘youth problem’. Both international and Chinese literature have highlighted that in the reform era, youth, intended as a social and cultural category or construct, came to be associated with less positive values, and the traditional discourse of ‘youth as hope’ proliferated along and intertwined with a negative discourse of ‘youth as trouble’. This paper looks at the re-emergence of the Communist Youth League (CYL) as a key institutional actor in setting the stage for the construction of a new social discourse on youth in the transitional period 1978–1981, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership confronted with the need to deal with the tumultuous upheaval of the CR and its impact on youth on the one hand, and to push forward the reformist agenda on the other. By mainly relying on CYL sources (documents, internal publications and the official youth press), a part of which has been largely unexplored so far, it shows how the discourse on youth became complex and multifaceted in those historical circumstances, reflecting not just different views within the élite but also and most importantly the very tensions involved in the reform project. While the existence of the ‘youth problem’ led to establishing a causal nexus with the now condemned ultra-leftist tendencies associated with Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, the need to make sense of the complexity of youth boosted a heated debate on youth characteristics, with a number of cadres and adult experts affiliated to the CYL defining, describing and prescribing what Chinese youth were in ways that, by ensuring they had not been guilty as former Red Guards and recognising them as both victims and increasingly emancipated actors, eventually pushed forward a new idea of youth that conformed to the new modernization aims of the Party. Providing an assessment of the young generation and its inclinations in the aftermath of the CR eventually became the premise for facilitating the emergence of a new youth subjectivity, while envisioning the integration of the self within the broader collective and the coexistence of liberal values with traditional socialist ethics. The debate on youth characteristics reflected the complex changes taking place in China and was constitutive of a broader process that set the stage for rethinking the socialisation of youth in the post-Mao era.

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
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In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
Author:

Abstract

This paper offers an outline of the narratives and perceptions by Italian travellers about the life and social position of Chinese youth in the People’s Republic during the 1950s. Its goal is to explore how the image of Chinese youth under Socialism produced by transnational propaganda in the Socialist cosmopolis and circulating abroad intertwined with the factual observations and the personal assumptions of the Italian intellectuals on the revolutionary social transformation of China in that period. It argues that, although travellers were impressed by the apparent protagonism of the younger generation in the construction of Socialism in China in those years and read it as a symbol of new China, they also speculated on how the conditions of youth after the revolution had really implied a dramatic change in their social and cultural power and in their political emancipation.

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
In: European Journal of East Asian Studies

Abstract

During the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), the state attempted to rapidly transform the country into a socialist, industrial powerhouse, necessitating the mobilisation of all members of society, including children. This article demonstrates that during the Great Leap Forward in particular, periodicals, storybooks, and newspaper stories portrayed children as independent problem-solvers and political actors, who often acted outside of, and sometimes in defiance of, adult authority. However, during this period, in daily life, teachers, parents, and Young Pioneer counsellors rewarded children for many aspects of the same behaviour as in the early years of the PRC: studying hard, helping one’s classmates, supporting the teacher, doing chores at home, and being kind and obedient to adults and authority figures. Thus, the heroic child of national media and the obedient child of daily life diverged significantly during the Great Leap Forward.

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies

Abstract

How, despite the non-specificity of the ghazal’s semantics, can its rhythms contribute to intellectual history? This essay proposes an answer to this question with reference to sixty of the almost three thousand Persian ghazals composed by ʿAbd al-Qādir “Bīdil” (1644–1720) of Delhi. These sixty are distinguished by the fact that their meters are rare or unprecedented in Persian but common in either Arabic or Sanskrit-Hindi or both. Building on the rare aural commonalities between these sixty Persian ghazals and Arabic and Sanskritic poetry in corresponding rhythms, this essay argues that Bīdil used them to multiply and complicate relations between the ghazal’s speakers and its addressees by amplifying hypotaxis; and to subsume the devotional mood of prosodically identical but paratactically simple Hindi hymns to a monist imagination. It concludes by suggesting that his Sanskrit-Hindi-enabled hypotaxis and rhythms in Persian were stylistic imitations of God’s hierarchized self-disclosures.

In: Journal of South Asian Intellectual History