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The cultural production of the unofficial publications in China (1978-1981)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This historical research examines the unofficial publications in China between 1978 and 1981 in order to understand its emergence, development, culminations and decline, as well as what aspects have exerted impacts on the rise and fall of the unofficial knowledge production in the Communist regime. Taking “cultural production” as an approach to study contemporary Chinese history, this thesis aims to reveal and interpret the historical dynamics of politics, minjian society and thought dissemination in China’s early reform era, at organisational, national and international levels. 
Based on the unofficial journals, official documents and international newspaper reports, this research will analyse the key moments, main figures and technical production of this historical process. The unofficial publications during this period arguably played a crucial (but over-emphasised) role in the democratic movement which lasted throughout the 1980s. Rather than being a component of the contemporaneous Democracy Movement, the study checks the unofficial publishing from three cultural dimensions: as mass media, as a social network and as a collective movement which are manifested in three pairs of interactions: with the authority, with the people as well as the intellectuals and with the international world. 
Breaking through the political barriers of Democracy (Wall) Movement, this thesis places the unofficial publishing in a broader cultural context. Though it inherits the form of dazibao and masses newspaper during the Cultural Revolution which are driven by the top-down political campaigns, it is essentially a cultural continuity of tongren publishing in Republican China, the underground reading in early 1970s, as well as the “cultural craze” in the mid-1980s, which are spontaneously emerged from the grassroots level and are relatively less interfered by politics. By revealing the complexity, diversity and flexibility of unofficial publishing and its political, social and international networks, this research will deepen the current knowledge of the social and political transformations in China’s early reform era.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Sep 2019

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