Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-) (CD-ROM)

By Sun, Warren | The China Journal, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-) (CD-ROM)


Sun, Warren, The China Journal


Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-) (CD-ROM), edited by the Editorial Board of the Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign CD-ROM Database. Hong Kong: Universities Service Centre for China Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2010. US$1,300.

This wonderful new Database compiled by Song Yongyi and his collaborating editors illuminates one of the most important events of PRC history, the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign, in a number of important respects - the broad trajectory of the struggle between intellectual repression and free expression, a deeper understanding of specific earlier major political conflicts informing the events of 1957, the behavior of key Party leaders and prominent intellectuals during the struggle, and the unfolding of the issue in the post-Mao period.

In the very early years of the post-Mao era the Chinese authorities under Hua Guofeng began to move away from Mao's shadow by abandoning life-and-death class struggle as the core business of politics. The newly reinstated Deng Xiaoping volunteered to take charge of education and science while advancing for the first time the policy of "paying due respect to knowledge and to talents". At the time Chinese intellectuals cheered on and hailed the "coming of the spring of science". Formerly rusticated youth also expressed the same gratitude to "Uncle Deng" for being allowed to study properly after the resumption of university entrance examinations based on academic merit.

Yet in no time, in early 1979 Deng's declaration of "the four cardinal principles" reaffirmed the dictatorship of the proletariat and the CCP' s monopoly of power. Deng was prompted by his fear that the pent-up anger of élite intellectuals at the January-March Theory Forum and of the ordinary educated public at the Democracy Wall was "getting worse than that in 1957". Then, in 1981, Deng personally ordered the campaign against Bai Hua, a victim of the 1957 AntiRightist Campaign and the screen writer of the popular movie, Bitter Love, which questioned the authorities' treatment of patriotic Chinese intellectuals. In 1983, the notorious "opposing spiritual pollution (of imported Western ideas)" policy was briefly launched. In early 1987 General Secretary Hu Yaobang was removed by Deng for his sympathy for liberal intellectuals and for being soft in ideological struggle. Then came the bloody crackdown on student demonstration in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and the more recent repression of leading intellectuals and political dissidents including Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei and many human-rights activists.

All these tragic events consistently demonstrate that anti-intellectualism and mistrust of intellectuals are deeply engrained in the genetic heritage of the Chinese Communist Party. This can be traced back to the various earlier antiintellectual movements going through the Yan'an Rectification (1942^43), the campaign against the Wu Xun movie (1951), the Thought Reform Movement (1952), the alleged Hu Feng Counter-revolutionary case in 1955 that was soon followed by the so-called Ding Ling Anti-Party Clique, finally culminating in the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign that repressed the cream of the thinking population in an otherwise silent China, and directly ruined the lives of more than 3 million people, not to mention the misery suffered by their affected family members (the figure reported to the Politburo on 3 May 1958 was 3,178,470 rightists nationwide, of whom only little more than 550,000 were identified and reinstated in 1978).

During his era, Mao proudly declared he was "Karl Marx cum Qin Shihuang". On 5 May 1958 Mao sneered at the Qin tyrant emperor "who buried alive only 460 scholars, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars. We are one hundred times better." During his time, Deng was pragmatic enough to remove the class enemy and "stinking ninth (category)" labels from intellectuals in order to appropriate their talents for China's pursuit of modernization. …

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