China and its Revolutions: What Kind of History for the Asian Century?

This contribution by Lewis Mayo of the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, continues The China Story Journal discussion of the Australian government’s Australia in the Asian Century, released on 28 October 2012. See also:

For media responses to and discussions of the White Paper, see The Australia-China Story section of this site.—The Editors


This is a revised version of a talk for Victorian History Teachers’ Association on the China component of the ‘Revolutions’ section of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) syllabus delivered on 22 February 2013. It is intended in part to provide a resource for those involved in teaching Chinese and Asian History, and arises from the concern that much high-quality English language academic writing on China and on history more generally does not circulate outside the world of universities. The notes at the end include references to books that will be of help and interest to people seeking to understand historical processes in the modern Asia Pacific region.—Lewis Mayo


The Australian government has allied Australia’s twenty-first-century future with the prosperity of the middle classes in the Asia Pacific region. The architects of this vision (expressed in the Australia in the Asian Century government White Paper of September 2012) were mostly economists. Their conception of the past, present and future of the Asia Pacific region emphasises material enrichment, and highlights the shifting of populations away from primarily agricultural lifestyles to lifestyles associated with the control of information and manufactured goods. The middle class, rather than the working class or the minor clerical class, is seen as the major force propelling – and propelled by – this economic growth.

This particular approach to Asian-Pacific histories began to take shape in the 1920s and 1930s when economists, geographers, civil servants and diplomats interested in the processes of industrial transformation in East Asia were starting to talk about a new era of Pacific-centred development.[1] The mid-twentieth-century Pacific War, a battle between the two new non-European imperial powers that emerged in the late-nineteenth century – the USA and Japan – was, among other things, fought over who would control and benefit from this industrialization process.[2]

The revolutionary process which unfolded in China from the early twentieth century until the century’s end was both a locus for this struggle and a key source of resistance to it. It was also part of the broader series of revolutionary – and counter-revolutionary – transformations of the old territorial empires of Eurasia occurring in the same period, in part through the influence of socialism. The first socialist state in Asia – the Mongolian People’s Republic, established in 1921 – would also be the first officially post-socialist state in Asia, abandoning socialism in 1990.[3] But observers who are focused more on economic institutions would point to an earlier shift away from socialist structures in the economy, starting in China in the late 1970s.

The embrace of the market is held to be the key to the formation of middle-class societies in Asia. These market-based middle-class societies are believed to have emerged first in Japan and its colonies and in the colonial and semi-colonial mercantile cities of East and Southeast Asia from the mid nineteenth to the twentieth century. In those cities, authoritarian or semi-authoritarian governments (either Asian or Euro-American, and either colonial or local) fostered consumption and education but did not permit full political participation. The liberally-oriented creole societies of the Americas and Australasia of that era sought to increase popular participation in politics while restricting immigration from Asian countries.  Anti-Asian racism – ranging from the Anglo-Celtic racisms of Australia to the indigenista anti-Asian racism of Mexico in its post 1910 revolutionary decades – was a shared feature of these creole societies.[4]

For those seeking to write the history of the Asia Pacific region as a grand story of prosperity produced by the steady growth of free trade, these histories of creole racism and of Asian consumer middle classes with curtailed political rights are perhaps nothing more than footnotes. The revolutionary processes that were in part a response to these political restrictions – most notably the anti-colonial revolutionary struggles in Southeast Asia, from the Philippine revolution of the 1890s to the Indonesian and ‘Indo-Chinese’ revolutions of the 1920s through to the 1970s, struggles that were directed against authoritarian colonial governments – are either ignored by development economists or represented as obstacles to or distractions from market development. Alternatively, the revolutions are regarded as macro-effects of the processes of economic change.

The post-revolutionary states of East and Southeast Asia have generally curtailed the political aspirations of their populations by insisting that prosperity is a more dependable objective than radical redistributions of political power. Direct experiences of the sufferings caused by revolutionary violence in many parts of East and Southeast Asia might have also led many parents to counsel their children to pursue careers in accountancy and to avoid any form of political activism.

A paradoxical or perhaps predictable effect of this wariness of political radicalism is that people who were directly involved in the Chinese or Vietnamese revolutions now often find the histories of the old dynastic systems that those revolutions sought to overthrow more compelling and meaningful than the history of the modern revolutions themselves. In mainland China, the plethora of costume dramas about imperial court intrigue on television, along with the sense that the Chinese revolution is perhaps better understood as a play of personalities and of epic events than as a matter of class conflict, are among the most concrete signs of this tendency.[5] The popularity of such programmes coincides with the spread of a state-encouraged account of the past which sees history as a quest for the increase of national wealth and power.

Prosperity, Integrity, Justice

For the contemporary Chinese state and for development economists, the story of national prosperity is the overriding and key question in modern Chinese history. The story of the revolution as a radical reordering of political relationships gives way to the story of the state as a more or less effective patron of the nation’s wealth-creation endeavours.

In other narratives, which can be found scattered across scholarly and non-scholarly writings on China’s modern history, the revolution emerges as a set of struggles for justice and a set of struggles over what might be called ‘integrity’ – the attempt to create some kind of ethical, cultural, political or territorial cohesion and validity. After 1978, the use by the Chinese state of a rhetoric of equality as a tool of mobilisation rapidly declined in favour of an emphasis on prosperity and, to a lesser extent, on ‘integrity’. It is often difficult to explain to people nowadays how a struggle against inequality might have inspired passionate commitment among revolutionaries in China and elsewhere in the twentieth-century world.  Rather than being disturbed by internal disparities in power, Chinese revolutionaries are now portrayed as worrying about weakness and poverty as marks of declining national vigour rather than as issues that related to how human social and political relationships should be ordered.

This is connected with the image of a crisis of cultural self-confidence amongst the Chinese elites, seen as having lost their faith in the value systems of the old order following defeats at the hands of foreign powers that were previously considered cultural inferiors.[6] The entire radical struggle for a more just distribution of social and political power has effectively been forgotten or sidelined.

A cartoon that was published in People's Daily newspaper using a historical perspective to illustrate that innovation is China's best hope of cultural security

‘Rest assured, I won’t build a Great Wall to keep you out’ (Chinese culture facing off Western culture). A cartoon illustrating cultural security from People’s Daily, March 2013.

Rather than a question of justice, the Chinese revolution is now seen as an amalgam of the battle of people to enrich themselves collectively and individually, and a struggle to recover a sense of the integrity and coherence of their culture and their national territory. The Chinese revolution appears in popular and official narratives largely as the consequence of a set of shocks caused by the cultural, military and economic impact of the West. The ‘Western Impact’ paradigm for the study of China, an approach much criticised from the 1970s in English-language scholarship on modern Chinese history, has become the current orthodoxy in China.[7] The possibility that the issue of social justice might have animated the revolutionary struggles in China in the twentieth century is given very little weight.

Any three-dimensional picture of the Chinese revolution, or indeed of modern Asian history more broadly, must examine the triad of quests – for prosperity, for integrity and for justice – that infused action in the three areas where revolutionary change is held to have occurred (the economic sphere, the political sphere, the social and cultural sphere).

Economic Revolutions

Narratives of modern Chinese history which are focused on economic growth tend to regard revolution as primarily a mistake, in particular in its disruption of the market mechanism by the command economy. The infamous utopian excesses of Maoist-era industrialisation and the millions of deaths caused by famine are the most frequently cited examples of this distortion, and are typically presented as either farce or crime or both. These are contrasted with the ‘tiger’ economies of Taiwan, South Korea and other areas in the US sphere of influence (usually ex-Japanese colonies), where the market mechanism prevailed between the 1950s and the 1970s, generally with material support from the United States, anxious to prevent these places from falling to communism.

Visions of prosperity: A 1951 Chinese propaganda poster envisaging a joyful peasantry post land reform. Source:

Visions of prosperity: a 1951 Chinese propaganda poster envisaging a joyful peasantry in the wake of land reform. Source:

The question of the relationship between Maoist policy and wealth is, however, problematic both for the detractors of Maoism and for its advocates.[8] The people whom the revolution was supposed to elevate – the peasants – clearly enjoyed few benefits from the economic system whose construction they had sponsored (through the diversion of grain from the countryside for urban industrial development). At the same time, a recent World Bank study of strategies for poverty reduction worldwide has concluded that post-Mao economic growth was very largely based on the relatively equal access to market opportunities among Chinese citizens at the time that China’s economic reforms began in the 1980s. This equality of access was possible because of the relatively low level of inequality in the distribution of resources and public goods.[9]

Observers of the Maoist economic order, whether critical or sympathetic, might argue that it sacrificed prosperity for justice and perhaps for integrity as well. The idea of economic independence – and thus of national integrity expressed in the official expulsion of foreign investors from the market – has been presented as coming at the expense of the living standards of Chinese people, who were only able to enjoy prosperity once the ‘closed door’ policy was abandoned. A different argument is that excessive concern with preventing the growth of major social inequalities resulted in a culture of collective impoverishment; in other words, a misplaced idea of revolutionary justice, whose central concern was preventing the private ownership of land, deprived people of the chance for a better standard of living. These ideas have widespread currency, and many members of China’s urban middle classes consider them to be accurate. Curiously, the old symbol of national shame – the penetration of China by foreign capital, something which the Communist revolution sought to bring to an end – is now seen as having been a vehicle for the restoration of national integrity through the promotion of prosperity.

Revolutions in Politics

Historians of China, wary of the distortions of the idea of class in Mao-era political campaigns, are now cautious about explaining the Chinese revolution solely as a political struggle driven by class conflict, and in particular as primarily a rebellion of peasants.[10] Peasant rebellions were once presented as popular action taken against political, economic and social injustice. More recently, they have been portrayed as expressions of frustration with the failure of the state to provide a reasonable standard of living, or as signs of a sense of anxiety about the disruption of Chinese lifeways by the incursions of foreigners. (The Boxer rebellion is often interpreted in this light.) The demands for political change that inspired the revolutions of modern China – seen most profoundly in the utter repudiation of monarchy as an institution[11] – cannot be adequately described without some reference to the rhetoric of popular justice with which they were associated.

Indeed, the quest for political justice that underlay Communist puritanism has been obscured by the current emphasis on the pursuit of prosperity. At the heart of the Communist opposition to the KMT state was dissatisfaction with its corruption and with the perceived decadence of the rich, whose wealth was seen as the unjust reward from exploitation. The austerities and injustices of the Mao era, coupled with the rise of a global orthodoxy which holds that the rich play a fundamental role in the economic growth that is supposedly vital to the empowerment of groups and individuals, have caused memories of this essentially political concern with uneven distribution of economic resources to fade.

A map of China from the Republican period. Source:

A map of China from the Republican period. Source:

This declining sense of the importance of questions of political justice in the Chinese revolution has coincided with the rise of forms of popular nationalism in contemporary China. The focus of this nationalism is the various threats to China’s national integrity posed by foreign powers which are seen as wanting to carve off pieces of China’s territory (Taiwan, Tibet, the Diaoyu Islands, etc.).[12] This is partly because the official narrative of modern Chinese history has turned the incursion of enemy powers into the key form of injustice in China, generating the spectre of a national self at risk of disintegration. The problem of integrity is posed in terms of territorial unity, and the loss of territorial integrity is presented as the central animating force in the struggle to transform the political system of modern China.

From the overthrow of the monarchy to the clash between the KMT and the Communists to internal struggles in the People’s Republic, it now sometimes seems that the core issue was who would most effectively preserve the integrity of the Chinese state, with no other political question being of any consequence. A good example of this trend is the difficulty that many Chinese people now have in imagining a non-Chinese Maoism (with the weakening of the Shining Path in Peru and the Maoists in Nepal, the biggest group of active Maoists in the world is now the Naxalite insurgent movement in rural India). This is because in the early twenty-first century Mao Zedong is presented to Chinese people as primarily a great nationalist who successfully presided over the reassertion of China’s territorial integrity.

A tendency among the Chinese intellectuals who have a positive view of Mao’s role in modern Chinese history is to assert that his policies of industrial self-reliance prevented China from becoming an economic colony of the Soviet Union.[13] In this account, Mao first secures China’s integrity against the threat of domination by Japan and then America, and then saves China from the USSR. According to this logic, without Mao, China could not have become the superpower that it now is. Mao’s association with a politics of radical social levelling is generally edited out of this account; the idea that his critique of the Soviet Union had any connection to the claim that the Soviet state had become bureaucratic, had abandoned class struggle and had produced a new privileged class of economic administrators, is treated as at most a smokescreen for a primarily nationalist agenda.

Yet any account of the political injustices of the Mao period should surely deal with the fact that these injustices were produced by a radical experiment with new forms of popular political justice. Critics of Mao are perhaps right to observe that this experiment was more likely to weaken national integrity than strengthen it. The violent political disruption and brutality that were associated with this experiment in popular justice arguably made Mao’s successors particularly wary of depicting battles against inequities in the distribution of power as having been a key part of the revolutionary project.

Here, we come to the question of how the quest for justice, integrity and prosperity interacted with the third domain of modern revolutionary activity in modern China after those of the revolutions in economic and political life: the revolution in culture and society.

Revolutions, Cultural and Social

Trying to explain the explosive emotional and physical violence directed against cultural relics during the radical phases of the Cultural Revolution is often difficult because so few Chinese people these days can conceive of these ‘heritage items’ as anything other than objects of pride.[14] The usual explanation is that people destroyed these objects in a fit of collective madness, orchestrated by Mao and his radical allies.[15] The difficulty of explaining the destruction of cultural relics to a contemporary audience is a sign of how effectively the twin ideas of a quest for prosperity and a quest to restore and maintain cultural integrity have consolidated themselves in accounts of modern Chinese history.

The pervasive view that contemporary Chinese society is driven by an insatiable desire for rare and valuable goods adds to the incomprehension. How could people who seem to have such a profound love of things have ever wanted to destroy them? How is the proliferation of objects that both marks and seems to animate contemporary Chinese prosperity to be reconciled with this iconoclastic austerity? Of course one answer to this question – unsatisfying in my view – is that the contemporary love affair with objects in China is compensatory; those who smashed their material past, watched it being smashed or grew up after it had been smashed became obsessed with recovering it in the present. Here older English-language histories of the Chinese revolution – of which Jonathan Spence’s The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and their Revolution, 1895-1980 remains one of the finest – are more helpful because they chronicle the anxieties about the past that provided so much of the impetus behind revolutionary change in the twentieth century.[16] Prior to the 1990s, it was still common to meet Chinese intellectuals who felt burdened by the culture of the past and were desperate to throw it off. Nowadays, educated people are more likely to express anxieties about the culture of the past being lost. The problem of cultural integrity and revolution now tends to be framed in terms of the relationship between Chinese and non-Chinese culture. The intensity of the revolutionary struggle with what used to be called ‘feudalism’ is generally overlooked. Yet perhaps the two most vibrant areas in contemporary scholarship on Chinese social and cultural history – the study of Chinese traditional religion and the study of gender relations – relate to the areas where the revolutionary struggles against ‘feudal’ culture were most intense: religion and family life.

Breaking up the institutions of the Chinese corporate family – an entity slowly constructed in collaboration with the state in the years between 1000 and 1900 – was probably the most notable achievement of the revolutionary state. Freeing up marriage choice, getting rid ofprivate land-ownership – thereby depriving the corporate rural family of its raison d’être – and later, after the reform had restored family control over economic activity in the countryside, the One Child Family policy, all combined to transform familial culture. (Significantly, it is now in the Communist Party, which research suggests was the main section of urban Chinese society in the high Maoist period which did not practice free choice marriage,[17] that something like a structure of old-style corporate families is maintained, and where property, careers and kinship ties form a significant interlocking whole. The Communist Party, having spearheaded the attack on the institutions of the imperial-era corporate family in the name of national revolution, ironically now seems to be the main institution in China which uses marriage alliance and familial inheritance to transmit power and wealth).

The state’s mild sponsorship of ‘Confucianism’ in the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is possible, one can argue, because the family has been effectively neutralised as a source of political and social power that can potentially oppose the state. What remains is the family as an organ of consumption and production – with the former outweighing the latter – and as a locus of emotion and budgeting. The revolution against the family was seen by moderate nationalists as removing one of the great obstacles to China’s modernisation and to national strengthening (strong nations, it was argued, all had free choice marriage and women active in public life). For radicals, the revolution against the family was seen as part of a wider human struggle for liberation from the forces of patriarchy. (Conservatives, by contrast, were anxious about the consequences of attacking the structures of the family, which they saw as one of the core institutions of the traditional cultural and ethical order.)[18]

Similarly, the revolution against traditional religion was understood by the state as essential for liberating people from the shackles of feudal thinking. This was not unique to the Communists. Prasenjit Duara has produced perhaps the most influential study of how the Republican-era state had broken up the traditional religious order in North China, allowing the state to exert greater and more profound control over the lives of rural people than its imperial predecessor.[19] For revolutionaries, the ‘feudal’ religious past, and the apparatus of traditional scholarship that had been the basis for the old educated class, were major targets since they were seen as the critical structures maintaining inequalities in the countryside. The violence directed at objects in the Cultural Revolution was part of a broader attack on these institutions which were perceived either as manifestations of backwardness or as symbols of the social hierarchy, or both.

The quest for justice in the social sphere unleashed much of its violence on objects which were seen as representing an order of inequality and oppression. These actions have much in common with similar attacks on traditional rural religion in other modern revolutions, most notably those in Russia and in Mexico. The puritan austerity of revolution – directed both at symbols of the traditional Chinese socio-cultural order and at the ‘frivolity’ of imported urban consumer culture, most notably that of Shanghai – was part of a larger movement against the material and symbolic structures of privilege. Cultural privilege, and in particular educational privilege, was a key target. As the important historian of the Chinese education system Alexander Woodside has observed, the tight link between education and political power in an exam-based meritocracy like China means that political conflict in China will almost always spill over into the educational sphere and beyond that into the domain of culture more broadly.[20] For this reason it is little surprise that so many of the radical political movements in twentieth-century China involved students. Research now suggests that the core group of rural activists in Chinese Communist Party in the 1920s and 1930s were school teachers[21] – and, as should always be remembered, Mao Zedong was himself a primary school teacher by training.

So, what will the vision of the Asian century as a century of the middle classes do to our understandings of the Chinese revolution and indeed of the other revolutions, quasi-revolutions and anti-revolutions of the Asia-Pacific region between the 1890s and the 1990s? The model of history that emphasises economic growth will probably continue to be the most influential one and will structure common-sense understandings. The East and Southeast Asian revolutions are likely to continue to appear as part of a quest to build strong and wealthy states, and as part of the story of the emergence of the middle classes.

As I have noted in my previous piece for The China Story Journal,[22] the reading public in Australia gets its non-fiction books primarily from publishers based in the North Atlantic, where, since the end of the Vietnam War, there has been only sporadic intellectual interest in Asian cultures and societies other than those of South Asia.  North Atlantic intellectual discourse almost completely ignores Southeast and Central Asia, while East Asia is primarily examined in political and economic terms, with a small amount of attention being accorded to literature and film.  Because the prominent South Asian diaspora intellectuals who live in Britain and America probably have a greater impact on what Australians read and know about Asian societies than anyone from East or Southeast Asia (indeed, it is difficult to name an East or Southeast Asian intellectual working in the North Atlantic who has the profile of Amartya Sen or Salman Rushdie), it seems likely that the South Asian quasi-revolutions – led by lawyers – will continue to be seen by Australians as the pre-eminent struggles for justice in twentieth century Asia, struggles that were animated by ideals rather than by the search for wealth and power.  By contrast, the more radical revolutions of East and Southeast Asia – led in many cases by teachers – will for some time at least be seen primarily as struggles for prosperity and for the preservation of national integrity. The quest for justice that was an equally compelling force in these revolutions will in all likelihood continue to be under-examined.



[1] Probably the most prominent group associated with the formation of these ideas were the individuals associated with the Institute of Pacific Relations, set up in the 1920s, and with its journal Pacific Affairs. Australians and New Zealanders with a strong interest in international relations and economic development associated with the Institute of Pacific Relations included Frederic Eggleston, Australia’s First Ambassador to China, and the New Zealand economist William L. Holland. A useful book on the Institute of Pacific Relations is Tomoko Akami, Internationalizing the Pacific: The United States, Japan and the Institute of Pacific Relations in War and Peace, 1919-1945, London: Routledge, 2002.

[2] The Japanese and US imperial projects in the Asia-Pacific region were initiated almost simultaneously in the late-nineteenth century with the Japanese annexation of Taiwan after the Qing dynasty’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War and the American annexation of the Philippines. Although his focus is World War II and the murderous racial hatred found on both the Japanese and American sides, John Dower’s War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, New York: Pantheon Books, 1986, offers one of the most compelling accounts of the intensity of the struggle between the US and Japan for control of the Pacific. An excellent recent study which looks at these developments from the viewpoint of the Pacific Island and Island Southeast Asian people who were affected by them is Matt K. Matsuda’s Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas, Peoples and Cultures, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[3] An overview of the history of the Mongolian People’s Republic, the Revolution which preceded it and the Democratic Revolution which led to its replacement can be found in the relevant entries in Christopher P. Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongolian Empire, New York: Facts On File, 2004.

[4]The most influential recent work on region-wide resistance to immigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is Adam McKeown, Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. For the Mexican Revolution and indigenista thought, including racism, see Alan Knight’s two-volume study The Mexican Revolution, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986, a major work on the origins and dynamics of revolutions.

[5] A rather different interpretation of these historical dramas is advanced by Ying Zhu in her Television in Post-reform China: Serial Dramas, Confucian Leadership, and the Global Television Market, New York: Routledge, 2008. She argues that People’s Republic of China television dramas on historical topics are either veiled critiques of the contemporary political order or state-sponsored works promoting the ideology of the current government. This ideology quietly revises early Communist Party interpretations of historical figures, including offering a much more enthusiastic celebration of strongman emperors than is presented in works from the high revolutionary era.

[6]A version of this crude narrative can be found in many accounts of the causes of revolution: France’s defeat by Britain in the Seven Years War is held to prefigure the French Revolution, while Russia’s defeat in the war with Japan prefigures 1917 and the loss of Mexican territory to the USA after the defeat of the 1840s prefigures the revolution of 1910.

[7] For a summary of the ‘Western Impact’ school andcritical views of it, see William T. Rowe, China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2009. For an example of a revitalised ‘Western Impact’ orthodoxy, see the account of modern Chinese history in Ezra Vogel’s Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2011.

[8] My thanks to Anthony Garnaut for his advice on questions of economic development.

[9] Martin Ravallion, ‘A comparative perspective on poverty reduction in Brazil, China and India’, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5080, 2009.

[10] Peter Zarrow, China in War and Revolution, 1895-1945, New York and London: Routledge, 2005, presents the different forces at play in the Chinese revolutions, and gives more space to social tensions, including peasant discontent, than many other recent writers. This is one of the best general histories of the period currently available.

[11] The Chinese revolution was arguably one of the most thoroughgoing anti-monarchical revolutions of modern times; among the old monarchical states of Eurasia only the Turkish Republic and perhaps that of Iran after the Shah displays a comparable level of anti-royalist sentiment, measured in the absence of any kind of restorationist political movement.

[12] A typical example would be Yinan He, ‘History, Chinese Nationalism and the Emerging Sino-Japanese Conflict’, Journal of Contemporary China, vol.16, no.50 (2007): 1-24.

[13] An extreme version of this viewpoint has been enunciated in online writings by the amateur historian Lü Jiaping, who was sentenced to ten years’ gaol in 2011 on charges of disseminating material that supposedly promoted the overthrow of the Chinese state.

[14] A recent discussion of these issues, and of the Cultural Revolution more broadly, can be found in Richard Kraus, The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

[15] It seems harder for many people to understand the iconoclasms of the Cultural Revolution than those of the Reformation or the French Revolution, perhaps because the Cultural Revolution is now seen as much less propelled by ideals than its European predecessor movements, and more as an effect of collective hysteria.

[16] Jonathan Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and their Revolution, 1895-1980, New York: Penguin Books, 1982.

[17] See Xiaohe Xu, ‘The Social Origins of Historical Changes in Freedom of Mate Choice under State Socialism, the Case of Urban China’, International Journal of Sociology of the Family, vol.28, no.1 (1998): 47-73.

[18] See the discussion of gender issues in Peter Zarrow, War and Revolution in China, 1895-1949.

[19] Prasenjit Duara, Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988.

[20] This point is made by Alexander Woodside in his ‘The Divorce between the Political Center and Educational Creativity in Late Imperial China’, in Benjamin A. Elman and Alexander Woodside, eds, Education and Society in Late Imperial China, 1600-1690, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994, pp.458-492.

[21] See Chang Liu, ‘Prometheus of the Revolution: Rural Teachers in Republican China’, Modern China, vol.35, no.6 (2009): 567-603.

[22] Lewis Mayo, ‘The Idea of Literacy in the Asian Century’, The China Story Journal, 22 November 2012.