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197. 60 Years Later: Reflecting the History and Scholarship of the Anti-Rightist Campaign

Sat, March 18, 8:30 to 10:30am, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 2nd Floor, Dominion Ballroom North

Session Submission Type: Roundtable Session


While the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution has generated discussion and reflection this year, another landmark is quietly approaching its 60th anniversary: the Rectification and the Anti-Rightist Campaigns of 1957. In comparison to the intensively studied Cultural Revolution, its precursor about a decade earlier has remained under-researched. This roundtable panel is meant to rekindle conversations regarding the history, memory and scholarship on this crucial turning point in the 20th century Chinese history.

Our roundtable will address a couple concerning questions. One deals with the debate regarding Mao’s motivation of launching the Anti-Rightist Campaign: Did he react from genuine surprise, or had he set a trap and plotted from the beginning to lure snakes? We hope to reach a consensus with the most recent scholarship. The other addresses various treatments of different social groups, especially capitalists, college students, workers, and peasants, in the Anti-Rightist Campaign, and explore reasons for the differences. This question puts elite politics aside and pursues local variations of the campaign.

Each panelist will shed light on one aspect of the 1957 events. Roderick MacFarquhar explores high-level disagreements on the launch of the Rectification Campaign. Perry Link discusses how the Anti-Rightist Campaign had become a crucial turning point obliging Chinese society as a whole to play a political language game. Song Yongyi contributes to the question of how was the Anti-Rightist Campaign unfolded in factories and the countryside. Based on his research in the silk industry, Robert Cliver studies capitalists in the Hundred Flowers and the Anti-Rightist Campaigns. Both Peng Deng and Ning Wang focus on various experiences of “rightists:” Deng looks at the Laojiao (reeducation through physical labor) system, and Wang deals with dissenting voices of rightists in Army Farms in northern China.

It will be a timely panel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Rectification and the Anti-Rightist Campaigns. We hope to bring a productive conversation about key issues that have yet to solve, and inspire future scholarship on the topic that has been relatively ignored before too long.

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