“Grasp Revolution, Promote Production”: Chinese Enterprise Management from the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution, 195872

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 1:30 PM
Salon 6 (Palmer House Hilton)
Zhaojin Zeng, University of Pittsburgh
Chinese industrial enterprises faced two intrinsically conflicting tasks in the Mao era: revolution and production. On the one hand, the communist regime relied on state enterprises to provide everyday goods and industrial products essential for the normal function of a command economy. On the other hand, a succession of political campaigns sought to bring state enterprises in line with the ideological dogma. In particular, since 1958 Mao repeatedly called for mass participation in industrial production and factory management, while putting forward ambitious output goals that the factories constantly failed to meet. Caught between revolution and production, how did Chinese enterprises manage to work with the powerful hand of the Chinese state?

Drawing on newly discovered factory archives and company documents, this paper explores continuity and change in Chinese enterprise institutions and organizational culture during the most dramatic period of Mao’s China from the late 1950s’ Great Leap Forward to the early 1970s’ Cultural Revolution. This study takes a revisionist approach to understanding the Chinese state enterprise system: Instead of treating it as the static work unit, I argue that the institutions of the Chinese industrial enterprise in Mao’s China should be seen as both evolutionary and transformative. By focusing on the tactics industrial factories adopted to implement the plans and meet the quotas, this paper demonstrates that the intertwined processes of revolution and production had not only been integrated into the institutions of Chinese industrial workplace but also fundamentally reshaped the pattern of state-business interaction that even persisted into the post-Mao era.

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