What has contemporary China inherited from its revolutionary past? How do the realities and memories, aesthetics and practices of the Mao era still reverberate in the post-Mao cultural landscape? The essays in this volume propose “red legacies” as a new critical framework from which to examine the profusion of cultural productions and afterlives of the communist revolution in order to understand China’s continuities and transformations from socialism to postsocialism. Organized into five parts—red foundations, red icons, red classics, red bodies, and red shadows—the book’s interdisciplinary contributions focus on visual and performing arts, literature and film, language and thought, architecture, museums, and memorials. Mediating at once unfulfilled ideals and unmourned ghosts across generations, red cultural legacies suggest both inheritance and debt, and can be mobilized to support as well as to critique the status quo.
Observers have been predicting the demise of China’s political system since Mao Zedong’s death over thirty years ago. The Chinese Communist state, however, seems to have become increasingly adept at responding to challenges ranging from leadership succession and popular unrest to administrative reorganization, legal institutionalization, and global economic integration. What political techniques and procedures have Chinese policymakers employed to manage the unsettling impact of the fastest sustained economic expansion in world history?
As the authors of these essays demonstrate, China’s political system allows for more diverse and flexible input than would be predicted from its formal structures. Many contemporary methods of governance have their roots in techniques of policy generation and implementation dating to the revolution and early PRC—techniques that emphasize continual experimentation. China’s long revolution had given rise to this guerrilla-style decisionmaking as a way of dealing creatively with pervasive uncertainty. Thus, even in a post-revolutionary PRC, the invisible hand of Chairman Mao—tamed, tweaked, and transformed—plays an important role in China’s adaptive governance.