China Table of Contents
The current status of Chinese intellectuals reflects traditions established in the imperial period. For most of this period, government officials were selected from among the literati on the basis of the Confucian civil service examination system (see Restoration of Empire , ch. 1; Traditional Society and Culture , ch. 3). Intellectuals were both participants in and critics of the government. As Confucian scholars, they were torn between their loyalty to the emperor and their obligation to "correct wrong thinking" when they perceived it. Then, as now, most intellectual and government leaders subscribed to the premise that ideological change was a prerequisite for political change. Historically, Chinese intellectuals rarely formed groups to oppose the established government. Rather, individual intellectuals or groups of intellectuals allied themselves with cliques within the government to lend support to the policies of that clique.
With the abolition of the civil service examination system in 1905 and the end of the last imperial dynasty in 1911, intellectuals no longer had a vehicle for direct participation in the government. Although the absence of a strong national government would have been expected to provide a favorable situation for maximum intellectual independence, other inhibiting factors--such as the concentration of intellectuals in foreigncontrolled treaty ports, isolated from the mainstream of Chinese society, or in universities dependent on government or missionary financing--remained. Probably the greatest obstacle to the development of an intellectual community free of outside control was the rising tide of nationalism coupled with the fear of being accused of selling out to foreign interests. In 1927 the newly established Guomindang government in Nanjing attempted to establish an intellectual orthodoxy based on the ideas of Sun Yat-sen, but intellectuals continued to operate with a certain degree of freedom in universities and treaty ports (see Nationalism and Communism , ch. 1). Following the Japanese invasion and occupation of large parts of China in 1937, the Guomindang government tightened control over every aspect of life, causing a large number of dissident intellectuals to seek refuge in Communist-administered areas or in Hong Kong.
When the People's Republic of China was established in 1949, intellectuals came under strict government control. Educated overseas Chinese (see Glossary) were invited to return home, and those intellectuals who remained in China were urged to contribute their technical expertise to rebuilding the country. Intellectuals were expected to serve the party and the state. Independent thinking was stifled, and political dissent was not tolerated.
In mid-1956 the Chinese Communist Party felt secure enough to launch the Hundred Flowers Campaign (see Glossary) soliciting criticism under the classical "double hundred" slogan "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend." "Let a hundred flowers bloom" applied to the development of the arts, and "let the hundred schools of thought contend" encouraged the development of science. The initiation of this campaign was followed by the publication in early 1957 of Mao Zedong's essay "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People," in which he drew a distinction between "constructive criticisms among the people" and "hateful and destructive criticism between the enemy and ourselves." In August 1957, when it was clear to the leadership that widespread criticism of the party and party cadres had gotten out of hand, the Anti-Rightist Campaign was launched to suppress all divergent thought and firmly reestablish orthodox ideology. Writers who had answered the party's invitation to offer criticisms and alternative solutions to China's problems were abruptly silenced, and many were sent to reform camps or internal exile. By the early 1960s, however, a few intellectuals within the party were bold enough to again propose policy alternatives, within stringent limits.
When the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, party functionaries assumed positions of leadership at most research institutes and universities, and many schools were closed or converted to "soldiers', workers', and peasants' universities." Intellectuals, denounced as the "stinking ninth category," either were purged or had their work heavily edited for political "purity", which severely hampered most serious research and scholarship.
Following the fall of Lin Biao, Minister of National Defense and Mao's heir apparent, in 1971, the atmosphere for intellectuals began to improve. Under the aegis of Zhou Enlai and later Deng Xiaoping, many intellectuals were restored to their former positions and warily resumed their pre-Cultural Revolution duties. In January 1975 Zhou Enlai set out his ambitious Four Modernizations (see Glossary) program and solicited the support of China's intellectuals in turning China into a modern industrialized nation by the end of the century (see The Cultural Revolution Decade, 1966-76; The Post-Mao Period, 1976-78 , ch. 1).
Data as of July 1987
China Table of Contents