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Policy Blending, Fuzzy Chronology, and Local Understandings of National Initiatives in Early 1950s China

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This article proposes the concept of policy blending to improve our understanding of the densely interactive quality of political initiatives in early 1950s China. Using three cases studies, I argue that policy blending, defined as the process by which previous political experiences shaped the implementation and interpretation of those subsequent to them (sometimes in ways contrary to the government’s intentions), occurred frequently during this period, to the extent that people’s understanding of the first years of Chinese Communist Party rule cannot be separated from this phenomenon. Using examples from marriage registration, the Marriage Law and the national discussion of the 1954 draft Constitution, I advance the historiographical argument that the early 1950s should not be demarcated by, or taught mainly with reference to, “temporally encapsulated” policies with clear beginnings and ends (i.e., policy “a” occurred in year “b,” followed by policy “c” in year “d”). Rather, policies seeped into each other, producing a blurry—but sometimes accurate—“impression” of state power. I further suggest that the concept of policy blending can be helpful in understanding subsequent political initiatives as well.


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