China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - The Battle for China’s Collective Memory: Official and Unofficial Narratives of the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-58)

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Washington Room 4, Exhibit Level

2017 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, in which hundreds of thousands of intellectuals were killed, persecuted or sentenced to re-education through labor. Until today, the official line has been that the initial version of the Anti-Rightist Campaign was necessary to stamp out a threat to Communist Party rule, but that its expansion was a mistake. Furthermore, since President Xi Jinping is in charge, whose rule is linked to the legacy of Mao Zedong, China is further away than ever from an official revision of historical mistakes such as the Anti-Rightist Campaign. On the other hand, there are still people, witnesses and family members of the victims in particular, calling for the government to make a public announcement accepting that the movement was a historical mistake and to offer compensation for the victims. Many of them argue that there is a need for a new official interpretation of history. By sharing their own past life experiences in written memoirs, published within and/or outside China, the witnesses became part of an alternative, unofficial Chinese historiography. This shows that until today there are not only different ways of dealing with the past in the PRC, but also a clash of different narratives of this Campaign. My paper discusses the question of how different narratives, historiographies and forms of memories influence each other and shape not only the different ways of dealing with the Anti-Rightist Campaign, but also the battle for China’s collective memory.

Anja Blanke

Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany

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