Guiding the People: Chinese Statecraft from Confucian Literati to Communist Cadres

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Timothy Cheek, History, University of British Columbia kicks off this semester's CCCI lecture series with the theme of "China, the Central State and All Under Heaven."

How is China governed? It is a question on our minds today as the rule of Xi Jinping in China challenges American hopes and stokes our fears. Is it Communist? Capitalist? Confucian? Making sense of Chinese statecraft, or of how any state is governed, requires not only political analysis but also some sense of the context, inherited problems, sense of self, that is, of its history.

This is a fundamental historiographical challenge: how and in what ways can knowledge of past practice inform our understanding of later or current practice? How can specific knowledge of history inform, deepen, challenge, and open up new questions about what we think we know of our present rather than simply reinforcing our current assumptions and prejudices?

This lecture explores that challenge to the practice of history through the example of one sort of governance—state-sponsored, village-based local public education in civic virtues. This state attempt to create ideal subjects began with the Confucians of the early 11th century, continued in rural education programs in Republican China in the 1930s, re-emerged in Communist ideological remolding campaigns under Mao, and appeared once again in political study sessions in Xi Jinping’s China today.

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Video of full lecture with presentation slides edited into the video.
Cornell East Asia Program, The Levinson China and Asia-Pacific Studies Program, Cornell Society for the Humanities, and the Department of History.
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East Asia Program, Cornell University
History; China; East Asia; Statecraft; Ideology
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