Society and the State in Mao-Era Shanghai

AHA Session 22
Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Madison Suite (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Paul Mariani, Santa Clara University
Coping with Socialism: The Shanghai Way under Mao
Hanchao Lu, Georgia Institute of Technology
The Cultural Revolution and Catholic Shanghai
Paul Mariani, Santa Clara University
The Incremental Takeover of Shanghai’s Civil Society
Steven Pieragastini, Brandeis University
The Audience

Session Abstract

When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took control of Shanghai in late May 1949, it encountered a city that presented it with both great opportunities and great challenges. On the one hand, Shanghai’s massive industrial and commercial economy was unmatched by any other city in China, even after the damages wrought by warfare and fiscal mismanagement under the Guomindang. The city contained the only large, established industrial working class on the mainland and was the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party as well as a proving ground for many of its leaders. At the same time, Shanghai’s environment was fraught with “counter-revolutionary elements” and the city’s reputation for social inequality, prostitution, drugs, and crime embodied the worst aspects of the old society. Worse still, the city was home to thousands of foreign “imperialists” and their Chinese associates, and many more thousands of middle and upper class Shanghainese who were not prone to embrace socialism. For these reasons, Shanghai was a primary target for the urban political campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s levelled at “counter-revolutionaries,” “anti-party cliques,” and eventually entire social classes. The radical phase of the Cultural Revolution would even engulf the city’s party and administrative apparatus itself. However, the municipal authorities were initially careful not to antagonize broad sectors of society, and ordinary Shanghainese, even those from suspect political and social groups, worked to carve out a modus vivendiunder the new regime. Concurrently, the opportunity to incorporate China’s only true proletarian “masses” created dynamic but contradictory social relations and unexpectedly set off civil conflict.

Each of the papers on this panel deals with relations between “the state” and “society” in Mao-era Shanghai and together they traverse social, intellectual, religious, and political history to present a remarkably complex picture of the period. Professor Hanchao Lu, through his innovative use of oral history and the fragments of everyday life, argues that despite three decades of mass campaigns and the Cultural Revolution, Shanghai’s old cosmopolitism survived the Mao era to return vibrantly in the post-Mao era. Similarly, Professor Paul Mariani uses personal accounts, letters, and interviews to reconstruct the history of Shanghai’s large Catholic community during the Cultural Revolution, a topic that previously has been impossible to study because of a dearth of sources. Jake Werner’s paper examines the Hundred Flowers Campaign and the Anti-Rightist Campaign in Shanghai’s factories to challenge a clear-cut division between state and society, instead proposing that the successful integration of “the masses” into the Communist system by the late 1950s broke this dichotomy but created new sources and sites of tension. Finally, Steven Pieragastini’s paper examines the takeover of private educational and charitable institutions in Shanghai during the first years of the new regime and argues that the CCP approached these institutions with much more caution than its rhetoric would suggest.

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