The first historical study of the development of statistics in Mao-era China, Making It Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China (Princeton University Press, 2020) explores how Chinese statisticians attempted to know their new nation through numbers. Exploring the different kinds of statistics available and adopted by the PRC, Arunabh Ghosh details how Chinese statisticians moved away from Soviet-inspired exhaustive enumeration, learned about the then-new technology of random sampling through exchanges with Indian statisticians, and how, in the tumult of the Great Leap Forward, they rejected other methods in favor of the ethnographic approach.
Not only does this meticulous book take seriously Maoist-era science and technology and revisit the question of whether the shift to Communist rule after 1949 was a rupture — for as far as statistics are concerned there was a good deal of continuity — but, by acknowledging Soviet and Indian influence, Making It Count also revises existing models of Cold War science. Lucidly written and organized, this book offers a fresh perspective on the nature of the early PRC state and a more global history of statistics to readers interested in modern Chinese history, statistics, the 1950s, and global science.
Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.