Campaign Nostalgia in the Chinese Countryside

Asian Survey, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 375-93, April-May 1999

19 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2008 Last revised: 17 Apr 2008

See all articles by Kevin J. O'Brien

Kevin J. O'Brien

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science

Abstract

Based on in-depth interviews, survey data, and archival sources, this paper analyzes the origins of nostalgia for Maoist mass campaigns directed against corruption and other malfeasance engaged in by local officials. It argues that campaign nostalgia is an indicator of frustration and unmet expectations. Its origins trace to an unwillingness on the part of the Party leadership to rely on mass mobilization to check cadre corruption. Although nostalgic villagers undoubtedly underestimate the downside of mass movements while conjuring up an idyllic era of official probity, it is understandable that these individuals long for a romanticized version of the rectifications of old and dismiss ineffective clean government drives, legal remedies and bureaucratic supervision as feeble replacements for centrally sponsored, direct struggle against wrongdoers. Still, campaign nostalgia may wane as institutional anti-corruption measures take hold and popular confidence in rule by law builds up. Continuing economic growth and village elections, at least in some locations, may also help reduce the popular yearning for mass mobilization.

Keywords: China, rural, implementation, mass campaigns, nostalgia, corruption

JEL Classification: K49, 054, P33

Suggested Citation

O'Brien, Kevin J. and Li, Lianjiang, Campaign Nostalgia in the Chinese Countryside. Asian Survey, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 375-93, April-May 1999, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1119324

Kevin J. O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science ( email )

Hong Kong

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