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Li Kangnian, Class Identity and the Controversy over the Socialisation of Private Business in 1957

image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

In 1956 the Chinese authorities accomplished the socialisation of private industry and commerce and handicrafts through the implementation of peaceful redemption and through taking charge of the original private management personnel. In January 1957, Shanghai industrialist Li Kangnian criticised the form of the redemption. He suggested extending the payment term of the fixed rate of interest (dingxi) from 7 years to 20 and changing the mode of payment to bank deposit receipts. In spring 1957 his proposal provoked a lively debate in commercial and industrial circles, whose members hoped to establish their relationship with the state on a contractual basis; they rejected the pressure exerted on them in the name of class conflict and asked for equal citizenship. However, these legitimate demands were severely suppressed during the anti-rightist campaign. The ccp’s propensity to instrumentalise policies made it impossible to achieve the original intention of using precious human resources, while it led to discrimination based on class and shaped a hierarchical society. In fact, the controversy over Li Kangnian’s proposals demonstrated a real confrontation between the patriarchal authoritarian culture of the Chinese Communist Party and the modern contractual culture of industrialists and merchants.

Affiliations: 1: Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris


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