This talk focuses on an ever-expanding cohort of grassroots agents who functioned as the nucleus of the Chinese Communist Party’s rural propaganda machine during the Mao era. These grassroots agents were a wide cross-section of society’s marginalised and disadvantaged, such as ostracised opera actors, blind storytellers, starved peasants, disillusioned rural educated youth, and rural children who were deprived of regular school education. They not only formed crucial links between the state and the rural populace, but also empowered themselves with valuable opportunities and upward mobility and continuously re-drew the boundaries between the state and grassroots Chinese society. Drawing upon untouched county archival materials and fresh oral histories, this talk underscores the significance of grassroots agency in shaping the history of the PRC. It unravels the intricate interplay among the Chinese Communist Party, its grassroots agents, and the rural population, which formed the bedrock of social control during the formative years of the PRC.

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.


Event Speakers

Yi Ren

Yi Ren 

Yi Ren is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University and a recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a historian of modern Chinese history with research interests in social and cultural history.

Event details

Event date

Thu, 17 Aug 2023, 4 - 5:30pm

Event speakers

Yi Ren