An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

The Party and Intellectuals 1950-1952

Mar 29, 2017 © Ulrich Theobald

In his talks during the Yan_an Forum on Literature and Art (Yan'an wenyi zuotan hui 延安文艺座谈会) in May 1942 Mao Zedong had explained the CPC's interpretation of the role of intellectuals: art and literature should represent the working class and serve the advancement of socialism. Both were thus instruments of a mass culture (qunzhong wenhua 群众文化).

In July 1949, a National Writers' and Artists' Conference (XXX) was held, headed by Guo Moruo 郭沫若 (1892-1978), Mao Dun 茅盾 (1896-1981) and Zhou Yang 周扬 (1907-1989). It planned to win over the majority of writers, artists and intellectuals (with a total number of c. 100,000, Guillermaz 1976: 49), even if they were bourgeois by their very nature. They had therefore to be reeducated in the sense of the CPC, and in November 1952, the Campaign for Remolding the Intellectuals (Zhishi fenzi sixiang gaizao yundong 知识分子思想改造运动) was launched.

In the course of the campaigns several outstanding intellectuals had to confess their errors, like Liang Shuming 梁漱溟 (1893-1988), a writer who had denied the existence of classes in Chinese society. The campaign attacked movies like Wu Xun zhuan 武训传 "The Life of Wu Xun" on a 19th-century reformer who cared for education and social welfare, but "lacked revolutionary spirit", or the film Qinggong mishi 清宫秘史 "Inside Story of the Qing Court", where the Boxers were allegedly portrayed to negatively, and the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911) and the foreign powers too sympathetically. The campaign also attacked Hu Shi 胡适 (1891-1962), an important thinker and historian of Republican China 中華民國 (1912-1949), for personal and intellectual reasons. He had fled to Taiwan, where he served the Republic of China as president of the Academia Sinica (Zhongyang yanjiu yuan 中央研究院) in Taibei.

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