Intellectuals and the Chinese Communist Party: Radical Education during the Rising Age of Communism in China from 1920 to 1949


Series: China in Transition
BISAC: HIS008000

Intellectuals and the Chinese Communist Party: Radical Education during the Rising Age of Communism in China from 1920 to 1949 provides an analytical survey of the Communist education and propaganda programs from 1920 to 1949. Four parts constitute the book, covering various periods of the Communist revolution. Part One deals with the early years of the Communist Party (1920-1927), when revolutionary intellectuals endeavoured to publish labour journals, formed workers’ schools, and set up cadre training sites in metropolitan centres and industrial towns. Part Two discusses Jiangxi Era (1929-1934), during which the party leaders launched experimental projects to build an education structure strikingly different from modern bourgeois schooling systems. Part Three centres on the Yan’an decade (1937-1945), in which the Communist higher learning institutions are elaborated, mass education in Shaan-Gan-Ning border region is surveyed, and the contention between Maoist reformers and professional educators is tackled. The last part of the book observes the Civil War Years, a period that began with ferocious warfare, but ended in a twilight of peace. By late 1948, regularization attempts had terminated the chaotic situation to dominate Communist schools in which the descendants of the labouring classes are now enrolled.

This work looks at the changing relation between revolutionary intellectuals and the Communist party through the prism of the party’s radical education, an area that is not clearly charted and well explored in the English-speaking world. In the early years of the revolution, although the party’s painstaking propaganda efforts invigorated labour activism and militancy, its inflammatory messages contained paradoxes and discrepancies, the seeds leading to intellectuals’ degradation. By 1926 and 1927, harsh criticism of the educated people culminated into a policy to proletarianize the vanguard organization, turning intellectuals, and the indispensable force of education into “suspicious elements”. The same policy line went through the entire Jingxi Era. Making “use of heretofore little-known publications of archival materials”, this book “shows how campaign-style politics and suspicion of intellectuals were already present in those early years” (Michael Szonyi). The Yan’an decade is represented as a significant new phase of the party-intellectual relation as the party leader Mao Zedong not only eagerly enlisted and rewarded intellectuals’ service, but also imposed ideological and organizational conformity on his educated subordinates. Overall, “this is a defiantly brave book”, which deals with “a politically charged subject such as political education”. “Scholars will find in her account much with which they may disagree”. “(T)his is a book to learn from” (Bryan Palmer). (Imprint: Nova)

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

Part One: The Early Years: 1919-1927

Chapter 2. From May Fourth Reformers to the CCP Founders

Chapter 3. Printed Word for Labourers–Marxism Indoctrination through Singing Praises of the Labouring People

Chapter 4. Cultivation of Revolutionary Cadres

Chapter 5. Making Revolution through Educating Industrial Workers

Chapter 6. Suspicious Elements or “Prometheus of the Revolution”?

Part Two: Jiangxi Soviet Era: 1929 to 1934

Chapter 7. Education Reform during the Revolutionary Tumult

Chapter 8. Practicing Education in the Rural Base Areas

Part Three: Yan’an Decade: 1937-1945

Chapter 9. Intellectual Service under Mao Zedong’s Dominance

Chapter 10. Cadre Schools in Yan’an

Chapter 11. Two Line Contention in Mass Education

Part Four: To Win the Final Victory: 1946-1949

Chapter 12. From War Service to Renewal of Regularization Drive in Education

Chapter 13. Themes and Theoretical Issues



This book appeals to three groups of readers. It will be interest to academic specialists and students who study modern Chinese history, especially China’s communist revolution. It will also attract attention from adult educators and students because this work provides extensive discussions on learning programs, teaching pedagogy and instruction tactics initiated by the CCP educators as well as on radical education reforms introduced by the party leaders. In addition, it may become an appealing book for ordinary readers because of its exploration of the paradoxical relations between the CCP and China’s intelligentsia. Books on Chinese communist revolution and intellectuals are often selected as university textbooks for upper level undergraduate courses and graduate courses. When increasing universities in North America are developing courses in China studies, this book has good potential to be read by university students in history, education, and political science.

“The middle section of the book, on education in the Jiangxi Soviet period, is the most interesting. It makes use of heretofore little-known publications of archival materials to tell the story of how intellectuals and party leaders crafted an educational policy at a critical phase in the Revolution. Strikingly, it shows how campaign-style politics and suspicion of intellectuals were already present in those early years, foreshadowing later developments after the CCP came to power.”Dr. Michael Szonyi, Director of Fairbank Center for China Studies, Professor in Department of East Asia Studies, Harvard Universit

“Overall, this is a defiantly brave book, which deals a politically charged subject such as political education. Scholars will find in her account much with which they may disagree. Yet, this is a book to learn from.” Bryan D. Palmer, FRSC; Professor and Chair, Canadian Studies, Canada Research Chair, Trent University, Peterborough ON Canada

“In my opinion, this work deals with an important period in Chinese history, discusses significant issues during the Chinese Communist Revolution, and makes original arguments on a number of issues based on solid sources.”Dr. Zhao Shiyu, Professor in Dept. of History, Beijing University

“This work studies Chinese Communist Party’s education and propaganda programs before 1949. Since few English works deal with the topic in national scope and during a long historical period, it fills a gap.” Dr. Wang Qisheng, Professor in Department of History, Beijing University

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