Maoist China's hinterland war machine: The Cold War, industrial modernity, and everyday life in China's Third Front, 1964-1980 /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Meyskens, Covell Franklin, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (363 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Hidden Bibliographic Details
Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Bruce Cumings Committee members: Mark Bradley; Jacob Eyferth; Kenneth Pomeranz.
This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:This study analyzes China's Third Front campaign (1964-80) to create a heavy industrial base in remote areas of western China that would be safe from American and Soviet bombers in the event that the Cold War turned hot. Between 1964 and 1980, China mobilized 13 million workers and devoted 40 percent of its capital construction budget to this huge industrialization campaign. The Third Front is at least important to Maoist China as the Cultural Revolution and yet scholars in the West know almost nothing about it.
At present, Western scholarship largely depends on two academic articles by Barry Naughton. Due to limited sources, Naughton's articles could not fully address how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constructed the Third Front. Nor could they adequately analyze its social and economic effects. This dissertation provides the first history of what is still one of China's largest military industrial complexes.
This study resituates the Third Front in the context of the Cold War. With the exception of diplomatic history, most studies of Maoist China have not taken the Cold War as a major category of analysis. Researchers have instead focused on processes internal to China and examined villages and coastal cities. This investigation elaborates a new framework for understanding the relationship between China and the Cold War. In so doing, it shows the decisive impact that the Cold War had on Chinese social life and economic affairs. This new framework also illustrates that to understand the Cold War's influence on China, it is necessary for researchers to shift their analytical gaze away from the coast to China's western hinterlands.
This study shows that like the Americans and Soviets, China assumed that the Cold War might turn into open warfare in the near future. In preparation for this imaginary conflict, the CCP constructed industry in the same kind of secluded locations that had housed Communist defenses during World War II. In this regard, the CCP followed the long tradition of military leaders fighting the next war as if it were the last war. In the end, the Third Front led to a massive expansion of industrial infrastructure in western China. This dissertation thus challenges the widely-held viewpoint that China lost a decade of development due to the Cultural Revolution.
The CCP's commitment to large-scale economic engineering was widespread in both the capitalist and socialist world during the Cold War. Like many similar projects, Third Front industrialization came at an enormous human and environmental cost. Following the Soviet Union, the CCP pushed to rapidly enlarge its heavy industrial base in order to strengthen its geopolitical position. Short on industrial capital, the CCP substituted huge inputs of manual labor.
The CCP did not only try to replace industrial capital with more readily accessible materials. Like the Soviet Union, China suppressed the development of a consumer goods sector for the sake of heavy industrial expansion and exchanged thought campaigns for proper food, water, and shelter. This decision caused China to have a very different experience of the Cold War than much of the capitalist world, where governments tended to implement pro-consumer policies to obtain popular support.
To boost morale, the CCP organized thought campaigns which aimed to make people embrace Maoism's ethic of hard work and deferred gratification for the sake of socialist China's industrialization and defense. This collective narrative did not silence discontent, and yet despite their misgivings, participants still built the Third Front due to a mix of commitment and compulsion. Similar to participants in Soviet projects, Third Fronters developed means of coping with scarcity and finding meaning amidst harsh living conditions. But, few ever came to see Maoist China's hinterland war machine as their permanent home.