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
The cover illustration featuring the diagram of a pig’s acupuncture points is an apt illustration for a book devoted to the "people’s" science and how science, technology, and politics were intermixed in China under Mao Zedong, especially during the period spanning the start of Mao's Great Leap Forward campaign (1958) until a decade or so after the Cultural Revolution ended, around 1986. Drawing on technical and popular publications of the period devoted to science, medicine, agriculture, economics, industry, technology, and related subjects, Kunze and Matten investigate how "science" was conveyed to the masses in China as part of a conscious state-building and socialist construction effort…. For anyone interested in how science and politics interacted in China during the Mao Zedong era, this book provides especially enlightening reading. Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students and faculty. General readers.
The book makes excellent use of a wide range of printed sources, especially materials for science dissemination. Although scholars have mined similar publications, it is still impressive to see the range and amount of sources brought under examination. In addition to books and magazines, the authors have combed through pamphlets, manuals, posters, documentary films, and lantern slides. This concise study doesn’t aim to tell a rich narrative history of science in Mao-era China; rather, the chapters function mainly as interlinked essays on a limited selection of phenomena that demonstrate science as a heterogeneous field of knowledge production and cultural practice in the Mao era. Taken together, they provide a valuable perspective on how to think about the complex picture of science during the often tumultuous early decades of the PRC. As such, Knowledge Production in Mao-Era China is of great interest and deserves the attention of readers, including those engaged in cultural studies.
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.