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The Chinese Communist Deployment and Management of Cadres and Agents from 1946 to 1957 in Fujian Province, China

Fan Lu's project examines the interaction between the local government and the People in the 1950s in Xiamen as part of the state-society relationship.

January 7, 2014


My archival research at the Xiamen Archive in Xiamen, Fujian Province of China in the summer of 2013 centered on the interaction between the local government and the People (人民, the new category invented by the new regime) in the 1950s in that city as part of the state-society relationship. Originally, I intended to connect the archival materials from different parts of Fujian other than Xiamen with those found in that city. However, I was disappointed that the theretofore declassified archival materials from those parts turned out less rich in stories and data as expected. Moreover, they failed to yield the clues to, for example, the intra/inter-provincial flow of cadres across the 1949 divide I was looking for, although I previously laid an emphasis on the cadre issue in my proposal. Most importantly, the archives outside of Xiamen in Fujian (in particular, those at the former revolutionary bases) proved much more reticent and reserved to people who study abroad. In the end, the Xiamen Archive—where I could manage to establish more network—remained the only relatively hospitable working place for me and whose primary sources were also more copious. Also due to the strict access, most of the sources there remain untapped, making them a more valuable asset. Therefore, I decide to focus on Xiamen (a city which already has importance of its own, a de facto although not default) as a case to study the Communist consolidation of the new order at the local level in the 1950s that closely involved the local government, its cadres and agents, and the People. The cadre and corruption issue that I had originally envisioned then became part of a larger question which deals with the relationship between the government-people interaction and the survival of the new polity. While modifying the course of my research, I still adhere to the original general plan of studying the government-People relationship in the early PRC years. In this sense, I still approached the materials close in time frame and content to those 四清运动 (The Four-Cleaning Movement) reports suggested by the U.S.-China Institute Director in the grant letter.

As my primary sources—not a few of them labeled as “secret” or “top secret”—show, the state management of cadres in the 1950s was inalienable from the examination, regulation, and review of their interaction with the people, subjects of the state. The state saw its cadres through the eyes of the mass of the people—at least so as my primary sources indicate, and so will we as scholars, at least partially. Also paradoxically, we as scholars hear the voice of the people only through the mouth of the government in the primary sources, which both reflect and mask the reality. While the sources conceal the truth, they do reveal some agenda and motives of the government behind doing so, which is going to be my critical and analytical work in the next stage of writing. In addition to contributing to the emergent field of the 1950s China, the earliest years of the People’s Republic, my broad topic also fits with the realpolitik of China. In particular this year, almost daily the 7:00 pm central state TV news broadcast (新闻联播) at its beginning has reiterated the importance of the Party–Mass relation (党员关系 and the cadres—Mass relation (干群关系), because for running a healthy state and a robust Party, the new Chinese leadership is seeking in full swing to ensure the harmony both in the political and the military arenas. This campaign has now culminated in the newest and most highlighted move of the “Containment of the Four Decadent Milieus” (刹四风) that aims at eradicating extravagance and gift-giving in the government system.

I started my research at the Xiamen Archive in late May and this time I was met with the newest, escalated security measures at the Archives, coupled with the Administration for the Protection of State Secrets (国家保密局). The nature of my topic of research, especially in terms of containing so much information on specific individuals, was the concern of the Archival administration that was worried about leaking the data on those whose posterity are still living. My research work was thus not easy due to the preponderant responsibility the Administration had to shoulder on their part. Because of this situation of research, the Archives administration turned down some of my requests for government work reports (政府工作报告) or work summaries(工作总结)—the bulk of my sources obtained. The administration also thought that some similarly sensitive content was included especially in the monthly/quarterly and annual reports such as Work Summaries on Dealing with People’s Letters and Visits (处理人民来信来访工作总结)—a special epistolary mechanism (if not culture). These are also some of my most coveted materials that I think are highly illuminating about how the government monitored the interaction between its agents/cadres and the People, as the government—if the reports could be believed—both deferred to and appropriated the voice of the People to discipline its cadres. Also noteworthy is that currently in China, the State Bureau of Letters and Calls (国家信访局) and its local branches have become some of the most contested spot between the people and the government.

In terms of my activities at the Archives, the document classes (文件级目录) of all the Chinese Communist Party (the CCP) organs in Xiamen (as opposed to government bureaus) were mostly beyond my reach because the Archival administration needed Party membership documentation at the least. So I mainly investigated in the classes of government bureau documents. Despite some constraints, I still got much more than I had done previously, and the PRC era documents are indeed much more detailed in content. The government bureau classes from which my documents are from—the ones that are relevant to my topic and contain materials formed in the 1950s—are those of (the English translation of bureau titles is from the Guidebook published by the Archive itself): The General Office of Xiamen Municipal People’s Government(厦门市人民政府办公厅), Xiamen Municipal Culture Bureau (厦门市文化局), Xiamen Municipal Education Bureau (厦门市教育局), Xiamen Municipal Supervision Bureau (厦门市监察局), Xiamen Municipal Personnel Bureau (厦门市人事局), Xiamen Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau (厦门市民政局), Xiamen Municipal Labor and Social Security Bureau (厦门市劳动保障局), Xiamen Municipal Public Affairs Administrative Bureau (厦门市公共事业管理局) and Xiamen Municipal People’s Procuratorate (厦门市人民检察院). I looked up in those classes mainly for the content of cadre work (干部工作)?internal bureau work and plan (局里的工作和规划) and the People’s letters and visits (人民来信、来访).

I am aware that the greatest bias of my sources is that they are sieved through the eyes of the current government and Archives administration, which thus considerably circumscribes my scope of view. I am looking only at what the administration was willing to let me do because of their concerns and worries. But I think even in the face of the fragmentary and disjointed nature of sources (for example, the time gap of months and even years), it is still valid to piece the sources together to critically reconstruct the stories full of human warmth and cruelty. Also what the administration blocked me access to reflects their perspective on current issues as related to the past. Despite the diversity of my stories to be told from sources, I think the binding line is how each of the trio—the government/state, the cadres and the People—played the other two against each other for the sake of its own, and ultimately, achieving the consolidation of the new order.

Click here to view projects of other 2012-2013 USCI Graduate Summer Fieldwork Grant receipients.




September 24, 2020 - 2:00pm

Join the USC U.S.-China Institute for a conversation with U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

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