Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Emotions, Localities and Leadership: the Chinese Youth League in the early 1920s

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Chinar, First Floor

In the first half of 1924, Liu Renjing, the chairman of the Chinese Socialist Youth League, dropped out of his position that he had taken over from Shi Cuntong. When Liu succeeded Shi in September 1923, he certainly had no idea that Shi Cuntong and the Shanghai Youth League would challenge his leadership in less than a month, or that local organizations would force him out. This dramatic change of leadership arose from a series of complex personal and ideological rivalries. This paper analyzes the crucial roles played by Liu Renjing and Shi Cuntong, their personal networks and power bases, and the youth leagues in Shanghai and other major Chinese cities. Acknowledging the complexities of the process, it traces interactions between centralized and localized powers and identifies the importance of personality and emotions as dynamics in early Chinese communism.
In a broader sense, Liu’s personal downfall is representative of the limits of how Moscow’s policies operated in China. Localities dared to behave jointly in a way that opened a significant chapter in the history of Chinese communism. The fragility of centralization and the might of local autonomy at the time arguably reflect the truth of allegedly democratic centralism, and show that the league and the party were in fact far away from the Bolshevik iron discipline.

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