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B13 - The Communist Party of China’s Consolidation of Power (1949–1958) – Crises and Repressions

The archival basis of research project B13 includes material from the years 1949 to 1958. Crises and repressions, as faced by or as used by the Communist Party of China to consolidate its power in the initial years after the establishment of the People’s Republic, were the focus of the elapsed research period.

The major part of the project’s archival material comes from the city archives of Tianjin and Qingdao and includes records that provide insight into how local governments in these two cities dealt with the mass movement of migrants and refugees within the country, due to hunger or political persecution, at the beginning and end of the 1950s. Concretely, the project‘s collection includes, in addition to documents from each local government, documents concerning work units and resident committees that also provide a glimpse into the formal organization of economic ties and interactions in the early years of the People’s Republic. Due to the current political situation in the People’s Republic of China, these materials are of greatest significance. Since the new government came into office, it is trying to get control over China’s post-1949 narratives. In doing so, China’s leadership has intensified its crackdowns on academic freedom in order to safeguard its legitimacy. In this context, the country’s rulers suppress history of the 1950s in a particular way. This also means that accessibility of archive materials has now been reversed in contrast to President Xi Jinping’s predecessor Hu Jintao.

The Hundred Flowers Movement and the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957–58) was the focus of the second half of the final phase of this research. Work with archival materials on this particular piece of Chinese history, in which at least half a million intellectuals were politically persecuted and which has been described as a “historical mistake by the Communist Party,” proved to be particularly difficult due to censorship measures. For this reason, the project‘s collection of archival material on this particular topic included resources from different research institutions in the U.S. Among them: material from the private archive of the well-known dissident and former rightist Harry Wu and the research foundation (Laogai Foundation) led by Wu, such as eye witness accounts and official government documents on forced labor camps and the “self-criticism” of rightists. The remaining material was collected from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., made up mostly of reports from secret correspondents of the U.S. in China, and from the Hoover Archives at Stanford University (eye witness accounts, secret government documents, cadre files, as well as “rehabilitation” documents of so-called rightists).

Contact: Anja Blanke, anja.blanke@fu-berlin.de