Many people outside China, and indeed many urbanites living in the country, rarely think about its vast rural areas. Yet today’s People’s Republic in many ways owes existence to the countryside where, seven and more decades ago, a rural revolution brought the new state into people’s lives, and new people under the state’s stewardship.
Brian DeMare’s highly engaging Land Wars: The Story of China’s Agrarian Revolution
(Stanford University Press, 2019) tells the story of this revolution, and indeed shows how the process was itself a story. Key to the psychological, political and economic transformations which unfolded in China’s million villages in the 1940s and ‘50s was a powerful narrative impulse – a Maoist “script” for revolution which gave shape to often chaotic and violent events. Untangling this script – and the relationship between the “literal and the literary” as DeMare puts it – is key to interpreting this formative cataclysm of the PRC’s recent past.
Professor Brian DeMare
specializes in modern Chinese history. A cultural historian studying the Communist Party's great enterprise, Professor DeMare researches how Chinese citizens have negotiated with the politicization of their everyday lives.
Ed Pulford is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.