Nebulous Nexus : Modernity and Perlustration in Maoist China

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This chapter posits the existence of a nexus of modernity and surveillance in the People’s Republic of China in the untidy post-Liberation decade of the 1950s. It identifies the state’s interception and perlustration of ordinary people’s correspondence for the purpose of discovering what they were thinking as a central component of that nexus, and it illustrates this identification with contemporary data culled from a corpus of recently declassified intercept transcripts. It argues that the creation of an alternative modernity—labelled communism but defined by discipline and quantifiable order rather than simply by ”freedom from want”—was attempted by China’s then political leadership, but ultimately abandoned in favour of the quiet consolidation of really existing socialism with Chinese characteristics.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History and Archaeology


  • Modernity, China, history, politics, Mao, mass dictatorship
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMass Dictatorship and Modernity
EditorsMichael Kim, Yong-Woo Kim, Michael Schoenhals
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Volume#2 in book series "Mass Dictatorship in the 20th Century"
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-30432-2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

Volume#2 in book series "Mass Dictatorship in the 20th Century"

Related projects

Michael Schoenhals


Project: Research

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