China Colloquium

Bin Xu, Associate Professor of Sociology, Emory University

Historically Remaining Issues: The Shanghai Zhiqing to Xinjiang and the Tangled Legacies of the Mao Era in China, 1980–2017

Sept 10, 7:30–8:30 pm (EDT) via Zoom Meeting

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This lecture addresses the social legacy of the Mao era or "historically remaining issue” (lishi yiliu wenti), long-lasting impacts of previous state policies and political practices on involved people’s lives in the post-Mao era. Such social legacy often involves intense interactions between the state and the society and is tangled with institutional and cultural legacies. This point is illustrated in a case study of the historically remaining issues of the Shanghai-Xinjiang migration program, in which about 97,000 Shanghai zhiqing were mobilized in 1963-1966 to settle in the Xinjiang Construction and Production Corps. After a series of petitions and protests in 1979-1980, which culminated in a hunger strike in Aksu, some were allowed to return, while others stayed in Shanghai without documents. For more than thirty years, the zhiqing returnees have been petitioning and protesting to pressure the Shanghai government and the Xinjiang Corps to solve the historically remaining issues, including unstable life, low pensions, and limited healthcare benefits. The Shanghai government responded with suppressing the protests, imprisoning leading activists, and making incremental, ad hoc policy changes. Even those policy changes, however, have created further problems and provoked more grievances.