Embodied Memories of the “Nine Polemics”

Feb 24 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge

Sun Peidong (Associate Professor, Department of History, Fudan University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/Discussant: Elizabeth Perry (Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University; Director, Harvard-Yenching Institute)

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Masterminded by Mao himself and drafted by the CCP’s top theorists, the Nine Polemics (jiu ping 九评)  made ideological and media preparations for the launching of the Cultural Revolution. The core issues in these polemics concerned the necessity to fight Soviet-style revisionism and prevent its happening in China, the need to forestall the American strategy of peaceful evolution, and the urgency to cultivate China’s younger generation as revolutionary successors. The Nine Polemics had a profound influence on the Cultural Revolution generation. Its polemical style and powerful rhetorical flourishes would soon become a model for Red Guard polemics. Famous passages from the Nine Commentaries were memorized and later became rhetorical resources for debate in the Cultural Revolution. This talk shows how the Nine Polemics produced such powerful influences by analyzing its organized dissemination and the context of its reception. Based on previously untapped archival sources, as well as oral histories specifically collected for this project, the analysis focuses on what aspects of the Nine Polemics are remembered and how they are remembered. A key finding shows that radio broadcast played a crucial role in disseminating the Nine Commentaries and strengthening their influences through the voices of the radio anchors.