To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
China and Inner Asia
In Session: Politics and State Building at the Grassroots: County Governance Practices in the 1950s
4: State Building, the Political Economy of Punishment, and the Institution of Mass-Line Policing in Communist China (1950-1962)
Thursday, March 25, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
McGill University, Canada
Following the Communist revolution, the Chinese Communist Party began the task of state building, one essential component of which was building the institution of punishment and policing. The formation and operation of this institution, we contend, led to social fragmentation and paved the social foundation for mass violence later on. Primarily based on archival research of reports from a county government in Jiangxi province, and its county bureau of public security, as well as a survey of original materials published by the Ministry of Public Security, we observe the following mechanisms through which the revolution continued well into the 1960s. First, members in mass-organizations of policing were quasi-free labor that complimented understaffed police force, but they had little training in professional work and were increasingly oriented towards radicalism and ideological missions. Second, relying on the masses to carry out punishment allowed the police to engage in more serious challenges to the regime, but it also equipped grassroots activists with the knowledge and ability to use administrative coercion to channel pre-existing social conflict. Third, reliance on activism for policy implementation including punishment improved efficiency, but fast rotation of activists conditioned local volatile power relations. With a volatile power relationship, ready administrative channels for confrontational social conflict, and habitual radicalism, communities were increasingly receptive towards group violence.