China’s Historical Trajectory

What Difference did the Cultural Revolution Make?

Conférence d'Andrew Walder (Stanford University), directeur d’études invité à l’EHESS, dans le cadre du séminaire de Sebastian Veg, « Historiography of Maoism: new interpretations ».

Andrew Walder est titulaire de la chaire Denise O’Leary & Kent Thiry au département de sociologie de Stanford. Un des meilleurs spécialistes du maoïsme et de la Révolution culturelle, il a consacré plusieurs ouvrages et articles importants à celle-ci et notamment aux conflits entre Gardes rouges (Fractured Rebellion: The Beijing Red Guard Movement, Harvard, 2009). Plus récemment, il a publié un ouvrage synthétique proposant un bilan de l’expérience maoïste (China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed, Harvard, 2015).


Contrary to its initiators’ intentions, the Cultural Revolution laid political foundations for a transition to a market-oriented economy, while also creating circumstances that helped ensure the cohesion and survival of China’s Soviet-style party-state. The Cultural Revolution left the Communist Party and civilian state structures weak and in flux, and drastically weakened entrenched bureaucratic interests that might have blocked market reform. The weakening of central government structures created a decentralized planned economy whose regional and local leaders were receptive to initial market-oriented opportunities. The economic and technological backwardness fostered by the Cultural Revolution left little support for maintaining status quo. Mao put Deng Xiaoping in charge of rebuilding the party and economy briefly in the mid-1970s before purging him a second time, inadvertently making him the standard-bearer for post-Mao rebuilding and recovery. Mutual animosities with the Soviet Union provoked by Maoist polemics led to a surprising strategic turn to the United States and other western countries in the early 1970s, which subsequently advanced the agenda of reform and opening. The impact of this legacy becomes especially clear when contrasted with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, where circumstances were very different, and where Gorbachev’s attempts to implement similar changes in the face of entrenched bureaucratic interests led to the collapse and dismemberment of the Soviet state.

Sociologie et sciences politiques Chine

Informations pratiques

  • Wednesday 30 May 2018 - 11:00 to 13:00
  • EHESS (Salle AS1_23) - 54, bd Raspail 75006 Paris