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Dr Fang-Long Shih
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Mediation: Foreign participants in the cultural production of unofficial publications in Beijing (1978-1981)

With Linxi Li

Series:  Seminar on Chinese Worlds in Comparative Perspective 

Date: Tuesday 21 March 2017, 6–8pm

Venue: Seligman Library, 6th Floor, Old Building, LSE

Chair:  Dr Fang-long Shih (LSE Taiwan Research Programme)

Discussant: Stuart Thompson (SOAS)

Abstract

After surviving underground during the Cultural Revolution, unofficial publications in China experienced remarkable ups and downs during the period of reform that followed. From late 1978 until 1981, when they were suppressed, such publications caught public attention in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and from mid-1979 were tolerated by CPC leaders.

These unofficial publications played a crucial role in contemporary Chinese intellectual history, both political and cultural.This presentation explores the role of foreign participants as mediators in Beijing’s unofficial publishing. Foreigners provided financial and moral support for a number of the 34 publications that emerged in Beijing alone, and their assistance greatly influenced the production and dissemination of unofficial publications. The CPC cooperated with these foreigners, with Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping expressing toleration for unofficial publishing in separate meetings with guests from the USA and Japan.

However, at the same time, the government was wary of the younger generation, and in particular the editors of such publications, engaging in exchanges with foreign friends, and there was constant interference and in some extreme cases even accusations of “collusion with foreigners”.

I argue that the mediation of foreign participants in unofficial publishing reveals the ambivalence of Chinese people about seeking openness and freedom, and that this resulted in the inevitable downfall of unofficial publications during the reform era.

About the Speaker

Linxi Li is currently a third-year PhD candidate in the Lau China Institute, King’s College London, with an interest in contemporary Chinese publishing history. Before came to London, she obtained her BA in Journalism (2009) and MA in Sociology (2012), both from Renmin University of China (Beijing), and she was an exchange doctoral student at National Chengchi University (Taipei). She is now conducting research on unofficial publications in China between 1978 and 1981. Her research interests include media and society, journalism and communication studies.

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