Counter-Productive Criticism: Attacking Confucius in Socialist China, 1974 to 1980


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants




Did Maoist China’s anti-Confucius campaign make the greatest contribution to popular understanding of classical Chinese history and culture? My project explores the process through which the state spread revolutionary critiques of China’s cultural and intellectual heritage in the second half of the 1970s, especially during the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign. The primary vehicles for the dissemination of these ideas were print, material, and visual culture. I examine both the creation and production of this material, and how it was received. My hypothesis is that calls to “use the past to criticize the present” were turned on their head: the war on Confucianism enabled ordinary people to consider the past in ways devoid of prescribed political meaning.