Since the advent of the Four Modernizations under the aegis of Deng Xiaoping in late 1978, Chinese society, culture, economy-indeed, almost every aspect of life-has been transformed. At the same time, however, the country’s Maoist and more distant Republican and Imperial pasts have continued to inform and shape reform. In this session, we will try to make sense of the general pattern of social and economic changes to assess whether the Four Modernizations have reformed and saved socialism (the original aim) or effectively dismantled socialism. Or, alternately, has socialism been redefined such that the term has lost its core significance? To address these large questions, we will discuss the general pattern of reform, including the significance of Deng Xiaoping, rural vs. urban growth, the fate of state-owned enterprises and the rise of manufacturing for export, and concerns regarding the rise of social inequality. The readings highlight the key issues of political ideology, social inequality, the status of labor, and the spectacular growth of popular protest in the past few decades.
Seminar led by Peter Carroll, Northwestern University