Dilemmas of “Thought Work” in Fin-de-Siècle China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-201
Journal / PublicationChina Quarterly
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


Since the summer of 1993, the Chinese central party-state has been engaged in a vigorous campaign to reassert control over “thought work,” or the flow of communications messages into and through Chinese society. The chief features of this sustained, omnidirectional crackdown – much more ambitious in scope than earlier, episodic crackdowns such as the 1983–84 “Campaign Against Spiritual Pollution” and 1987 “Campaign Against Bourgeois Liberalization” – include limitations on access to foreign Internet websites; restrictions on satellite television reception; efforts to suppress the surging tide of pornographic and other “bad” print publications; and many other measures aimed at curtailing the circulation of heterodox ideas and images in China. The underlying strategic goal is to restore the Centre's control over the “environment of symbols” from which Chinese people derive many of their most important world views, values and action strategies to pursue interests. If central party-state leaders can resume control over the symbolic environment, they seem to believe they will be much more able to maintain political stability and direct Chinese society towards the achievement of a variety of more specific goals, including reduced crime and corruption, the reform of state-owned enterprises, and the abatement of environmental degradation. On the other hand, a continued haemorrhaging of control over thought work would not only make current problems worse, but could over time facilitate the formation of a semi-autonomous, critical public opinion.

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Citation Format(s)

Dilemmas of “Thought Work” in Fin-de-Siècle China. / Lynch, Daniel C.

In: China Quarterly, Vol. 157, 03.1999, p. 173-201.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review