Special Lecture |Communism vs. Capitalism in Everyday Chinese Life since 1949: The Life and Death of a Cold War Interpretive Framing| 2 March 2024 @ 11 AM- 12:30PM IST | Zoom Webinar

02 Mar 2024
Karl Gerth
Venue: Zoom Webinar
Time: 11:00 AM

What forces shaped the twentieth-century world? Capitalism and Communism are usually seen as engaged in a fight-to-the-death during the Cold War. With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party aimed to end capitalism. In this seminar based on his book Unending Capitalism, Gerth argues that despite the socialist rhetoric of class warfare and egalitarianism, Chinese Communist Party policies actually developed a variety of capitalism and expanded consumerism. This negated the goals of the Communist Revolution across the Mao era (1949-1976) down to the present. Through topics related to the Chinese state’s attempts to manage what people began to desire – wristwatches and bicycles, films and fashion, leisure travel and Mao badges – this seminar challenges fundamental assumptions about capitalism, communism, and countries conventionally labelled as “socialist.” In so doing, Gerth’s history of China suggests how larger forces related to the desire for mass-produced consumer goods reshaped the twentieth-century world and remade people’s lives.


About the Speaker

Karl Gerth writes, teaches, and speaks on the history and contemporary implications of consumerism and capitalism, particularly in the case of China. He is a Professor of History and the Hsiu Endowed Chair in Chinese Studies at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). His most recent book is Unending Capitalism: How Consumerism Negated China’s Communist Revolution, which explores the contradiction between the stated socialist aspirations of the Chinese Communist Party and the growing inequalities created by industrialization. He is also the author of As China Goes, So Goes the World, which explores whether Chinese consumers can rescue the economy without creating even deeper global problems and China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation: A History of Economic Nationalism in Early Twentieth-century China. After receiving his PhD from Harvard University in 2000, he taught at Oxford University until his move to UCSD in 2013.


About the Chair

Hemant Adlakha is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is also Vice Chairperson and Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi. His areas of research include political discourse in the PRC and modern Chinese Literature and Culture. He is a member, International Editorial Committee, International Society for Lu Xun Studies, Seoul (ROK). His articles have appeared in China Report, The Diplomat, Japan Times, Encyclopaedia of Race and Racism, (2nd Ed, Washington) etc. His co-translation of Lu Xun’s prose poetry collection from Chinese into Hindi has been published by the NBT in November 2019. His most recent publications include “Trust-building between the US and China – Lessons from the Cold War,” Nov. 2022; “Knowing China: Sinomania to Sinophobia” a chapter in the book, India China Dialogues Beyond Borders, December 2023, Springer Singapore.


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