This book traces and analyzes the transformation of the public discourse of science and technology in Mao-era China. Based on extensive primary sources such as science dissemination materials and technical handbooks, as well as mass media products of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution periods, this book delineates the emergence of a pragmatic approach to knowledge in society. To achieve the goal of fast modernization with limited financial, human, and material resources, the party-state accommodated Western and local, "modern" and "traditional" knowledges in the fields of agricultural mechanization, steel production and Chinese veterinary medicine. The case studies demonstrate that scientific knowledge production in the Mao-era included various social groups and was entangled with political and cultural issues. This reveals and explains the continuity of scientific thinking across the historical divides of 1949 and 1978, which has hitherto been underestimated.
Rui Kunze is a research fellow at Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nüremberg.
Marc Andre Matten is professor of contemporary Chinese history at Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nüremberg.
List of Figures
Chapter 1 Defining Correct Science—Transformations of Knowledge Epistemologies
Chapter 2 Creating the People’s Science: Science Dissemination as a Social Process
Chapter 3 Promising a Bright Future: The (Half-)Mechanization of Agricultural Production
Chapter 4 Producing Knowledge on the Shopfloor: Technological Innovation in Socialist
Chapter 5 Creating a Bifurcated Knowledge System—the Case of Chinese Veterinary Medicine
Chapter 6 Re-shuffling Science in the Reform Era
About the Author
This richly textured history takes readers on a fascinating journey into the world of science dissemination and mass science in the early People’s Republic of China. Tracing the significance of experiment as method and social practice, Matten and Kunze probe the connection between science and state-building and reveal a plurality of knowledge systems that spanned agriculture, technology, medicine, veterinary medicine, and more. The result is a highly original, incisive, and lucid contribution to modern Chinese history and the history of scientific knowledge and state governance in the twentieth century.
What place did science occupy in the popular imagination during Mao-era China? In this insightful and deeply engaging book, Matten and Kunze show that the promotion of grassroots experiential scientific practice during the era was far more interactive and dynamic than simply a dichotomy between the autonomy of science and the pressures of politics and ideology. In so doing, they argue that the era’s enthusiasm for science and its many notable achievements are not out of step with what came before or after; instead they are constitutive of a century during which science enjoyed a talismanic role in China. This is not just an important intervention in the historiography of science in China, but also a crucial contribution to global histories of science.