China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Maoist China’s industrial history is mainly written as a series of state policies and local responses. Recent studies have begun to alter the top-down, state-centered narrative, by highlighting the role of regional industrial initiatives and establishments, such as plants, dams, and oil fields, in shaping the outlook of Chinese economy and industry. This panel contributes to this emerging scholarship by focusing on regional factories, arguably the most important institution of the Maoist industrial economy, and examining their interactions with the state through political, sociological, and ecological perspectives. Lin & Zhu analyze how local factory elites secured their leadership positions, exploring various strategies that they developed in adapting to institutional changes in the 1950s and 1960s. Tan looks at the Great Leap Forward via the lens of small fertilizer plants, arguing that energy production and circulation was central to understanding the industrialization of China’s agriculture. Tracing continuity and change in the management of regional iron foundries from the Leap to the Cultural Revolution, Zeng demonstrates that memories of the earlier disasters affected future production practices and organizational culture. Andreas analyzes factional conflict among factory workers and cadres during the late years of the Cultural Revolution decade, showing how – for a short period – political contention was built into the institutions of grassroots industrial governance. From technical cadres and factory workers to small fertilizer plants and regional iron foundries, these papers together develop a new bottom-up approach to the industrialization of Mao’s China that centers around grassroots subjects and regional industrialism.