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The challenges to Deng Xiaoping's policy of indirect leadership over the arts in China, 1979-1989

Li, Y. (1994). The challenges to Deng Xiaoping's policy of indirect leadership over the arts in China, 1979-1989. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis investigates and illustrates the challenges made by Chinese writers and artists towards Deng Xiaoping's reform in the arts in China between 1979 and 1989. This process started against the background of widespread disillusion with the Cultural Revolution and the Communist Party of China after Mao Zedong's death in 1976. The way a communist country reformed its arts administration while balancing the twin objectives of developing the arts and maintaining the stability of the communist regime is first examined, using a comparative approach and qualitative analysis to cast light on the issue from six aspects. Deng Xiaoping's reforms in the arts resulted in six major problems: the lack of legal basis or support for the implementation of Deng Xiaoping's policy towards the arts, the failure to cope with constructive criticism made by Chinese communist writers particularly, the enforcement of new forms of censorship, the rejection of demands for further freedom of expression and pursuit of independence, the fear of criticism of Chinese culture as an alternative in the fight against official censorship, and the suppression of demands for a reform of the communist political system supported by writers and artists.

The implementation of Deng Xiaoping's policy towards the arts replaced Mao Zedong's direct control while Chinese writers and artists gained the opportunity to exercise relatively more freedom in their artistic creativity and pursuit of independence compared with their experience between 1949 and 1976. However, these changes created a series of crises for the communist regime in relation to the arts, but were almost impossible to reverse. Two key factors contributed to this process: the gradual but continuous demands for freedom of expression from the literary and arts circles in China, and Deng Xiaoping's pragmatic and contradictory approach, in terms of maintaining the political control of the communist regime while developing an economy which was a mixture of socialist central planning and the capitalist free market, in the implementation of his reforms. Consequently, the arts in China developed in an evolutionary way rather than through drastic change as in the former USSR and Eastern Europe.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Li thesis 1994 PDF-A.pdf]
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