SYMPOSIUM: A people’s perspective on China during the Mao and post-Mao periods

Mao_mainSaturday, March 28, 2009
1:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Harbour Centre Campus, Simon Fraser University
515 West Hastings, Vancouver
Room #2270

The period of almost six decades since the Chinese people took “the first step on a thousand li journey” neatly divides into two near halves. The first, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, was the period engaged in building socialism. The second, the post-Mao period, is characterized by a systematic negation of the gains of the first half, by restoring capitalism internally, and by latching the Chinese economy to the vagaries of international capital.

This sixty-years long experience of the Chinese society and its people has thrown up very many significant questions – of interest certainly to students of societal transformation. What promise did the 1949 Revolution hold for the peasants, workers and other toiling masses of China, and to what extent was the promise delivered? What precisely was the nature of Worker-Peasant Alliance practiced during the Mao period, and how did the practice of “walking on two legs” translate into an integrated economic development, both in agriculture and industry? Why did the project of building socialism derail so soon after the death of Mao in 1976? Is it because China, with its huge peasant base and small proletariat, was not a suitable society for building socialism, and the project was doomed to failure? If not, what forces were operative within Chinese society and the Communist Party that brought about the end of the socialist project and restoration of capitalism? Was the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao a horror as it has been made out to be, or was it a successful experiment in empowering the broad masses of Chinese people?

The March 28 Symposium will attempt to deal with these and related questions. These will be looked at from the perspective of the ordinary Chinese people: the peasants, the workers and other toilers. As the vast majority of Chinese population, how did they do during the Mao period, and what has been the impact on their lives with the policies followed during the second half of the sixty-year period.

The Symposium brings together four long-time students of Chinese society and its political economy to share their analysis and understanding: Dr. Pao-yu Ching from Michigan, Dr. Dongping Han from North Carolina, Dr. Robert Weil from California, and Dr. Yuezhi Zhao from SFU itself. Additionally, Dr. Jeremy Brown, again of SFU, will lead the discussion to follow the four main presentations.

I am very pleased that the David Lam Centre of Simon Fraser University accepted my proposal for the Symposium, and decided to be the Sponsor of the event with substantial funding support. I am grateful to the Centre’s Director, Dr. Paul Crowe. I am also thankful to the many academic units of the university (listed below), which have agreed to become Co-sponsors of the event and have provided additional funds.

Hari Sharma
Professor Emeritus of Sociology, SFU

Important Note: Due to limited capacity, it is strongly advised that those interested in attending the Symposium register prior to March 27. This can be done by phoning Ms. Edith Lo at +1 778-782-5089, or by sending a fax to +1 778-782-5112. It can also be done by e-mail sent to:


The Symposium Program

Part I. China : 1949-78 (1:00-3:00 p.m.)

** Welcoming Comments, Dr. Paul Crowe, Director, David Lam Centre

** Dr. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, SFU: Introduction
The significance of the 1949 Revolution for the people of China and of the World

** Dr. Pao-yu Ching, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Marygrove College, Detroit, Michigan
China’s Socialist Development Based on Worker-Peasant Alliance

** Dr. Dongping Han, Warren Wilson College, Asheville, North Carolina
Rural China during the Cultural Revolution Years: Socialism and Democracy in Practice

Coffee Break: 3:3-30 p.m.

Part II. China: 1978-2008 (3-30-6:00 p.m.)

** Dr. Yuezhi Zhao, Professor, School of Communication, SFU
Media, Internet and the Communication of Everyday Social Struggles in Reform Era China

** Dr. Robert Weil, Retired Lecturer and Union Organizer, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz
Class Polarization and Conflict in Post-Mao China

** Leading the discussion: Dr. Jeremy Brown, Department of History, SFU

The Symposium Sponsor
David Lam Centre, Simon Fraser University

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Institute for Humanities, School of Communication, School for International Studies, all at Simon Fraser University


Program Panelists:

Dr. Jeremy Brown is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Simon Fraser University. Besides several journal and book articles, he is also the Co-editor, with Paul Pickowics, of Dilemmas of Victory: The Early Years of the People’s Republic of China. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007)

Dr. Dongping Han grew up on a collective farm in China during the Cultural Revolution, and openly owes his educational advancements to the rural educational policies adopted during the Cultural Revolution. He received his BA in English Literature from Confucius Normal University and MA in Comparative Literature from Hebei University. After moving to the USA in 1990, he got another MA degree in History from the University of Vermont, and a Ph. D. in Political Science from Brandeis University. Presently he teaches at Warren Wilson College, Asheville, North Carolina. Over the years he has made many research-oriented visits to rural China, especially to his native village in Jumo County in Shandong province. His major publications include: The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village, MR Press, New York, 2008, besides many journal articles. During 2007 he was in China on a speaking tour lecturing at nine university campuses on, among other things, “Evaluation of Maoist Political Economy”.

Dr. Pao-yu Ching is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Marygrove College, Detroit, Michigan. She has specialized in studies on China and the Chinese economy, has been active in the anti-imperialist movement in the past 15 years. Her recent publications include Globalization and Crisis of Capitalism (in Chinese) published in Taiwan 2005, “An Analysis of China’s Capitalist Reform”, Institute of Political Economy Journal, November, 2006, and “How Sustainable is China’s Agriculture? A Closer Look at China’s Agriculture and Chinese Peasants”, online publication by People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty,, 2008

Dr. Hari Sharma is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Simon Fraser University. He is also a community-based activist as President of South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD). Among his recent publications is the book he edited, Critical Perspectives on China’s Economic Transformation, Critical Asian Studies (USA) and Danish Books, New Delhi, 2007. Available locally by contacting

Dr. Robert Weil is the author of Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of “Market Socialism”, and many articles and papers on Chinese political economy and class relations. He has been a lifelong activist in civil rights, labor, anti-militarism, environmental and international solidarity movements, and has recently retired from positions as Lecturer and Union Organizer at University of California – Santa Cruz.

Dr. Yuezhi Zhao is Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Global Communication at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University. Dr. Zhao is the author of Media, Market and Democracy in China (1998), co-author of Sustaining Democracy? (1998), and co-editor of three other books on global media and communication. Dr. Zhao’s recent book, Communication in China: Political Economy, Power and Conflict (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), explores China’s rapidly evolving polity, economy and society through the prism of its communication system.


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