China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Popular Publishing for Socialist Construction: Series Publication and Negotiated Cultural Production during the Mao Era

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Wilson A, Mezzanine Level

With the stabilization of reorganized publishing companies under state coordination by the late 1950s, China’s leading publishers began to produce series publications aimed at a general reading public. That imagined public was composed of cadres and “students, workers, and peasants with a secondary education or higher.” Publishers and cultural cadres alike sought to introduce a mass readership to common knowledge through collections like Zhonghua Book Company’s Chinese History Small Series and the cooperatively produced Knowledge Series, much as China’s publishers had before 1949. Popular publishing was meant to contribute to socialist construction.

To formulate publishing plans, company leaders and cadres from the Central Propaganda Department and Ministry of Culture negotiated the thematic focus and organization of series. Publishers mobilized their editorial staffs and outside experts to draft titles for each series, and they organized editorial committees of scholars and specialists to oversee the lists following the pattern of archetypal Republican-era collections like the University Series. However, the specialization of individual publishing companies under the centrally coordinated publishing system established during the 1950s created particular challenges for producing a general collection like the Knowledge Series. Assistant director of publishing in the Ministry of Culture, Hu Yuzhi, found a way to overcome this challenge by organizing six different presses to contribute distinct categories of books to the comprehensive series, creating a new model of collaborative socialist publishing.

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