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Rise of the Red Engineers: The Cultural Revolution and the Origins of China's New Class (Contemporary Issues in Asia and Pacific)

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ISBN-13: 978-0804760782
ISBN-10: 0804760780
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Editorial Reviews


"Joel Andreas's Rise of the Red Engineers is ambitious in scope and analyzes the "transformations of China's class structure since the 1949 Revolution" with rigor and style. . . . Andreas's work brings fresh perspective to our understanding of class in China, of the machinations of the Cultural Revolution, and of twentieth-century experiments in Communism in comparative perspective"—Denise Y. Ho, China Review International

"The book is impressively researched and documented, and the findings and arguments are clearly and cogently presented . . . Andreas offers in this book a serious and sophisticated analysis of an important social phenomenon in twentieth-century Chinese history that continues to shape the leadership structure of China today."—Hua-yu Li, East Asia"In providing this thought provoking analysis [Andreas] has not only made a contribution to our understanding of China in the second half of the twentieth century but also helps us to think about why the Chinese Communist project, inaugurated with such idealism in 1949, went wrong and therefore what future idealists might need to think about as they embark on their own revolutions."—Peter Wood, Hong Kong Economic Journal

"This is an essential book for specialists seeking to understand the murky issues of class in the People's Republic of China (PRC) since 1949; it is also highly engaging and accessible to non-specialists."—Sigrid Schmalzer, American Historical Review

"Rise of the Red Engineers provides an exciting sociological analysis of Maoist and post-Maoist China . . . The book would work well for graduate courses in political sociology, comparative and historical sociology, and socialism and postsocialism."—Johanna Bockman, American Journal of Sociology

"Joel Andreas has written a very fine analysis of the emergence of China's current ruling group."—Thomas P. Bernstein, Political Science Quarterly
"Rise of the Red Engineers is a welcome contrast to scholarship on contemporary China that dismisses the Mao years as crazy or as irrelevant to the reform period. Andreas takes the ideology and policies of the Mao era seriously and judges the results of Mao's programs by their own stated goals . . . Andreas' signal achievement is in using complex human stories to construct a compelling and tightly packaged argument that pushes us to think about the world in new ways. He succeeds because his goal is to explain what happened and why, rather than to give the entire Mao era a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Everyone interested in contemporary China and modern Chinese history should read this book."—China Journal
"Andreas offers not only one of the best books about politics in post-1949 China, but also one of the greatest contributions to the study of the new class in general . . . This theoretically informed, empirically rich study will reach far beyond its particular subject, and should appeal to all readers interested in social stratification, intellectuals, socialist and postsocialist societies, and comparative-historical sociology."—CHOICE
"This is an important study of the Maoist effort to shape China's new generations of political and technocratic elites and the consequences. Joel Andreas focuses on China's premier technology university as the keystone of this effort, explains why the university erupted in violence during the Cultural Revolution, and analyzes the shifts in status today of the political, technocratic, and moneyed elites. This is one of the very best books about China that I have read in recent years."—Jonathan Unger, Director, Contemporary China Center, Australian National University
"This study of the recruitment and training of a technocratic elite in China reads like a chronicle of the rise and fall of revolutionary communism. Andreas brings back into analysis structural questions of power largely ignored in recent studies of Chinese politics, and shows how the Cultural Revolution ironically played a formative part in the coming together of old and new elites."—Arif Dirlik, Professor of Chinese Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong
"Andreas provides a sweeping sociological history of Tsinghua University, told through the lens of class formation and the politics of social mobility. He chronicles Tsinghua's role as a crucible of elite formation from the early imposition of Communist rule on an elite university, through the struggles of the Cultural Revolution and the post-Mao restoration, up through the recent resurgence of high-tech capitalism in the university's Science Park. This book is absorbing reading for those interested in the tortuous course of the Chinese revolution."—Andrew G. Walder, the Denise O'Leary and Kent Thiry Professor of Sociology, Stanford University

About the Author

Joel Andreas is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. His work has appeared in various publications, including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and The China Journal.

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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Issues in Asia and Pacific
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804760780
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804760782
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Richard J. Gibson on January 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
In recent years there has been a persistent drumbeat denouncing the Cultural Revolution, Mao, Maoism, and, in particular, education in the forty or so years of China's socialism. At the heart of the issue is the dismissal of class struggle, the eradication of the memory that elements of the cultural revolution, especially in educational areas, benefited millions of people who were otherwise completely disenfranchised--from goods,property, and knowledge too.
Andreas' careful examination of events at Tshinghua University, one of the key universities in China that, ultimately, fashioned some of China's top leaders today, shows that the events of the Cultural Revolution can be analyzed in sensible ways that illuminate what happened and, importantly, why things are as they are today.

Andreas employees a template that readers unfamiliar with the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the Great Leap, the CR, and the aftermath, will find helpful while experts will find the current misleading, well-funded, scholarship decrying the CR as "simply crazy hysteria" debunked in sophisticated, well-referenced ways. Activist readers will be handed problems that the should consider, problems the Chinese faced and they will too, that is, what of intellectual elites within the movement, what of the children of former ruling classes, what of class consciousness itself? My only complaint is about something beyond Andreas' control--our somewhat new habit of using endnotes rather than bottom-of-the-page footnotes. As one who reads footnotes with care, I can only hope other scholars can upend this unfortunate nod to the impatient or careless.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James R. Maclean on September 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
(Disclaimer: this reviewer has not visited China and has no professional expertise on China. This is strictly a book review, and not an assessment of Chinese politics.)

Probably the most important motivation for the Chinese state since the Revolution has been economic growth: the People's Republic has epitomized the developmental state both as a militantly socialistic regime, and as an ostentatiously ultra-capitalist one (1). Some may be perplexed by this, since the early Communist period was accompanied by a crescendo of political turmoil, climaxing in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). But since the very beginning of major 20th century revolutions, the industrial system has been an all-consuming obsession, and with good reason: the leaders of the regime have always been in a race against time to pull out of the commodity dependency trap before public support for industrialization flags. In Bolshevik Russia, the great schism between the Trotskyists and Stalin arose from the battle over developmentalism; the ideology, and eventually, the purges, would be driven by the need to prolong Lenin's "mandate" to electrify the whole country (2). In China, the developmentalist agenda was a settled question by 1949, and just over a year later the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was engaged in a shooting war with the capitalist world. Keeping these items in mind is crucial to taking Chinese history seriously: most of the alternatives to what they would do were, in the event, illusions--never really available in the first place.

Naturally, a key salient in the battle over developmental strategy was education policy. In 1949, 24 million children were enrolled in primary school, and 1.
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