From Comrade To Citizen

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Overview

A leading scholar of China's modern political development examines the changing relationship between the Chinese people and the state. Correcting the conventional view of China as having instituted extraordinary economic changes but having experienced few political reforms in the post-Mao period, Merle Goldman details efforts by individuals and groups to assert their political rights.

China's move to the market and opening to the outside world have loosened party controls over everyday life and led to the emergence of ideological diversity. Starting in the 1980s, multi-candidate elections for local officials were held, and term limits were introduced for communist party leaders. Establishment intellectuals who have broken away from party patronage have openly criticized government policies. Those intellectuals outside the party structures, because of their participation in the Cultural Revolution or the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, have organized petitions, published independent critiques, formed independent groups, and even called for a new political system.

Despite the party's repeated attempts to suppress these efforts, awareness about political rights has been spreading among the general population. Goldman emphasizes that these changes do not guarantee movement toward democracy, but she sees them as significant and genuine advances in the assertion of political rights in China.

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Editorial Reviews

Joseph Fewsmith
This thoughtful and important book tells us much about the changing shape of the intellectual community in China, the concerns and political strategies of intellectuals, and their relationship with both the political center and the people. As one would expect with a veteran observer of Chinese affairs, Merle Goldman tells the story with a sharp eye and compelling writing.
Bruce J. Dickson
A well-written and balanced portrayal of dissent and opposition in contemporary China, From Comrade to Citizen adds to the strong body of work that Goldman has produced throughout her career.
Wall Street Journal - Ian Johnson
As Ms. Goldman sees it, many Chinese intellectuals and a growing number of ordinary people are casting off their role of 'comrades' and beginning to view themselves as citizens, with rights to be defended and asserted. In quick but sure sketches, Ms. Goldman describes the results of this growing consciousness. Some events are better known, such as the Democracy Wall movement in 1978-79, when writers posted critiques on a wall in downtown Beijing, or the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. But the events of the past decade have not been given a historian's treatment, and this is the most valuable part of Ms. Goldman's book.
New York Review of Books - Jonathan Mirsky
Goldman's new book offers invaluable analysis of Chinese history during the last two decades. She shows how the increasingly organized struggle for democracy and rights under Chinese and international law has broadened out from the dissident urban intellectuals--who are still a tiny, constantly persecuted group--and has come to include mass demonstrations of peasants and workers.
China Quarterly - Jean-Philippe Béja
Merle Goldman...has been the best in her field for decades, and most people who have followed in her footsteps have a deep respect for her work, which she started when it was far from fashionable. Her new book is a very stimulating presentation of the pro-democracy movement--which she prefers to characterize as the march towards citizenship--since Mao's death. It is well documented, and every important instance of dissent, every influential petition demanding a reform of the political system is reviewed, which makes her work particularly useful for specialists who have not followed the events which official history tends to neglect, and for the students who want to understand the political dynamics of the reform period...This book is the best that has been published in English on the subject to this day, and whoever wants to understand Chinese politics during the reform era must read it.
Pacific Affairs - Jasper Becker
Professor Goldman has performed an invaluable service by weaving together all the different strands of Chinese society--peasants, workers, intellectuals, political activists and internet bloggers and writers--who have challenged the political stasis.
Wall Street Journal

As Ms. Goldman sees it, many Chinese intellectuals and a growing number of ordinary people are casting off their role of 'comrades' and beginning to view themselves as citizens, with rights to be defended and asserted. In quick but sure sketches, Ms. Goldman describes the results of this growing consciousness. Some events are better known, such as the Democracy Wall movement in 1978-79, when writers posted critiques on a wall in downtown Beijing, or the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. But the events of the past decade have not been given a historian's treatment, and this is the most valuable part of Ms. Goldman's book.
— Ian Johnson

New York Review of Books

Goldman's new book offers invaluable analysis of Chinese history during the last two decades. She shows how the increasingly organized struggle for democracy and rights under Chinese and international law has broadened out from the dissident urban intellectuals—who are still a tiny, constantly persecuted group—and has come to include mass demonstrations of peasants and workers.
— Jonathan Mirsky

China Quarterly

Merle Goldman...has been the best in her field for decades, and most people who have followed in her footsteps have a deep respect for her work, which she started when it was far from fashionable. Her new book is a very stimulating presentation of the pro-democracy movement—which she prefers to characterize as the march towards citizenship—since Mao's death. It is well documented, and every important instance of dissent, every influential petition demanding a reform of the political system is reviewed, which makes her work particularly useful for specialists who have not followed the events which official history tends to neglect, and for the students who want to understand the political dynamics of the reform period...This book is the best that has been published in English on the subject to this day, and whoever wants to understand Chinese politics during the reform era must read it.
— Jean-Philippe Béja

Pacific Affairs

Professor Goldman has performed an invaluable service by weaving together all the different strands of Chinese society—peasants, workers, intellectuals, political activists and internet bloggers and writers—who have challenged the political stasis.
— Jasper Becker

Foreign Affairs
Goldman has devoted her career to studying the role of intellectuals in modern China, always with an eye to spotting "seeds of democracy." She distinguishes between "establishment intellectuals" and "disestablished intellectuals," who, as dissidents, have expanded the domain for civil society and thus helped to create a new consciousness of citizenship. This detailed narrative account begins with the Democracy Wall movement and goes on to report on the establishment of independent political organizations in the 1980s, culminating in the astonishing emergence of some 90 million Chinese who have used their access to cyberspace to define new concepts of citizenship. Although the harsh realities of state repression are not overlooked, Goldman presents a positive vision of China's prospects, based not on wishful thinking or abstract generalizations, but on documented facts and the stories of individuals. Anyone interested in China's prospects for political reform should turn to this solidly researched but very readable book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674025448
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Merle Goldman is Professor of History, Emerita, at Boston University and Associate of the John K. Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

Abbreviations

Introduction: From Comrades to Citizens in the Post-Mao Era

1 Democracy Wall: The First Assertion of Political Rights in the Post-Mao Era

2 The Establishment of an Independent Political Organization in the 1980s: The Social and Economic Research Institute

3 The Emergence of Unofficial Political Movements in the 1990s

4 Ideological Diversity Challenges the Party

5 The Flowering of Liberalism, 1997-1998

6 The Establishment of an Alternative Political Party: The China Democracy Party

7 Citizenship Extends into Cyberspace despite Repression

8 The Expansion of Rights Consciousness

Epilogue: Redefinition of Chinese Citizenship on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century

Notes

Index

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