“New Trends in the Study of the Early People’s Republic of China” International Workshop

This week the Maoist Legacy Project will be co-hosting an international workshop on New Trends in the Study of the Early People’s Republic of China. Workshop participants will present on and discuss a range of topics spanning the Mao years and their immediate aftermath. Members of the MLP team will present on research findings and the project database, as well as lead a discussion on the digital humanities and PRC history.

Judith Bout on China’s lawyers

The Maoist Legacy Project has invited Judith Bout (EHESS) to Freiburg to give a talk on the recent history and current situation of lawyers in China. 

Judith Bout is an analyst of the debates in the French Senate. She is currently working on a PhD dissertation at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, under the supervision of Yves Chevrier and Isabelle Thireau, on the history of lawyers in the People’s Republic of China. In 2013, she published a biography of Zhang Sizhi: Les confessions de maître Zhang (Paris: François Bourin, 2013) 

The talk will be held on Thursday, 27 April, 18:00, Erbprinzenstraße 12 (4 OG). The language of the presentation will be French.

Should we take the brutal repression of China’s politically engaged lawyers under Xi Jinping as a sign, among others, that China is getting ready to take a great leap back to the Cultural Revolution? Many are those, both foreign observers and Chinese intellectuals, who worry about such a prospect. Indeed, the profession has never before suffered attacks comparable to those we see today.

However, Judith Bout argues that, while this repression constitutes a change of direction, it does not signal a return to the legal nihilism that was prevalent during the Cultural Revolution. On the contrary, as it is carried out in the name of preserving the “socialist Rechtsstaat”; the violence of the attacks against the lawyers underlines that the question of law, which was of secondary importance in the early period of reform and opening up, has now become a central concern to the Chinese Communist Party, to the point that it has been integrated in the party doctrine.

In her talk, Judith Bout will trace this evolution through three major stages: first, the use of law as a tool and the reestablishment of the lawyer profession (from 1979 to 1998); second, law as method and the transformation of the lawyer into a spokesperson (1999 to 2012); finally, law as value and the party’s renewed preoccupation with the lawyers (2012 to today). 

To illustrate her presentation, she will draw upon a unique set of materials: testimonies and private archives recovered over more than ten years from circle of lawyers around the godfather of the profession – Zhang Sizhi (1927–).

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La brutale répression des avocats chinois engagée sous Xi Jinping constitue-t-elle un signe, parmi d’autres, que la Chine s’apprête à accomplir un grand bond en arrière pour revenir à la Révolution culturelle? Ils sont nombreux, commentateurs étrangers comme intellectuels chinois, à le redouter. De fait, jamais cette profession n’avait fait jusqu’ici l’objet de telles attaques.

Pour autant, Judith Bout avance que si cette répression constitue un tournant, elle n’annonce pas un retour au nihilisme juridique qui prévalait sous la Révolution culturelle. Bien au contraire, elle soutient que, menée au nom de la préservation de “l’Etat de droit socialiste”, la violence des attaques contre les avocats souligne que le droit, question mineure au début de la politique de réforme et d’ouverture, est devenu un enjeu politique majeur pour le Parti au point qu’il l’a intégré à sa doctrine.

Judith Bout retracera cette évolution en trois grandes étapes: d’abord, le droit comme outil et la refondation de la profession d’avocat (de 1979 à 1998) ; ensuite, le droit comme méthode et la transformation de l’avocat en porte-parole (de 1999 à 2012) ; enfin, le droit comme valeur et la reprise en main des avocats (de 2012 à aujourd’hui).

Sa présentation sera illustrée par des extraits tirés d’un matériau unique : les témoignages et les archives personnelles recueillis depuis une dizaine d’années auprès d’un cercle d’avocats dont Zhang Sizhi, né en 1927, figure tutélaire de la profession, constitue le noyau.

Association for Asian Studies Roundtable on PRC Grassroots Documents and History Methods, Toronto

The Maoist Legacy project team will travel to the Association for Asian Studies annual conference held in Toronto this week, where Daniel Leese will participate in a roundtable discussion on Grassroots Documents and PRC History Methods alongside several other prominent scholars. The roundtable will address “the challenges and benefits of gathering grassroots documents” and include open discussion on the topic from both panelists and the audience. Leese will discuss the Maoist Legacy’s collection, various obstacles in using grassroots sources, and the possibilities that a digital platform can offer to address these problems.

The Maoist Legacy and 1976, Lund

Puck Engman will present the Maoist Legacy project at the Centre for Languages and Literature of Lund University on October 25. This will be followed on October 27 by a talk organized by the Swedish-Chinese Association on the mobilization against the Gang of Four in the fall of 1976.

Sino-Soviet Relations and the Global Cold War, Berlin

On September 23 to 24, Daniel Leese will attend the 24th Berlin Colloquium on Contemporary History, hosted by Austin Jersild, fellow at the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies.

The theme of the colloquium is Sino-Soviet Relations and the Global Cold War. Here is a description of the event from the announcement:

The end of the Cold War and the increasing availability of new archival materials from Russia, Eastern Europe, and China has inspired new work on the Sino-Soviet alliance and split, understood by many scholars as one of the most significant episodes in the entire history of the Cold War. China’s frustrations with the socialist world formed the background to its subsequent overtures to the so-called “Third World” after 1960, and also to its efforts to normalize relations with Western Europe and the United States.

This Berlin Colloquium explores Sino-Soviet relations and their global consequences, with attention to the strategic realignment that led to the making of the U.S.-Chinese partnership as well as the implications for the Third World of the Sino-Soviet rivalry. The breadth of the topic allows for contributions from scholars working in diverse areas of specialization, from the Soviet Union to Africa.