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SCRIPTS Lecture: Felix Wemheuer (Cologne): Economic Reforms in China and the Soviet Bloc

Apr 30, 2024 | 02:00 PM

After the death of Chairman Mao in 1976, Chinese politicians and economists were engaged in debates how to reform the traditional Soviet model of centralized planned economy. Past experiences with decentralisation of planning and rural household responsibility played a role. Furthermore, economic reforms in Eastern Europa, for example in Hungary and Yugoslavia, were important references. The talk will raise the question of how economic policies in the early 1980s were linked to debates during cycles of reforms in the socialist camp after Stalin’s death (1953-1957) and again in the early 1960s. Cadres and economics had discussed how to integrate market mechanism and price incentives (“the law of value”) into the system of planned economic.

At that time, many economists and politicians would use a Marxist framing in their proposals for reform. Was “political correctness” the major reason for this framing or did people still believe in it?

In most of the state socialist countries, these debates came to an end with the Soviet invasion in the CSSR. In China, many leading economists were purged during the Cultural Revolution. However, waves of rehabilitation, politicians and economists could build on knowledge and discourses from the earlier cycles of reform. The talk will raise the question whether or not we should use the framework of (neo)-liberalism or “market socialism” to write the history of economic reforms. The controversial definition of both terms will also be debated.

Felix Wemheuer is Chair Professor for Modern China Studies at the University of Cologne. His publications include "Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union" (Yale UP 2014) and "A Social History of Maoist China: Conflict and Change, 1949-1976" (Cambridge UP 2019). He has the youtube-channel "Studying Maoist China"(https://www.youtube.com/@felixwemheuerstudyingmaois1051/videos). In German, he published a reader on “Market Socialism: A Controversial Debate” (Promedia 2021) From 2000 to 2002, Wemheuer studied "History of the CCP" at the People's University in Beijing. Between 2008 and 2010, he was a visiting scholar at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (Harvard University).

Time & Location

Apr 30, 2024 | 02:00 PM

Cluster of Excellence 'Contestations of the Liberal Script'
Edwin-Redslob-Str. 29
14195 Berlin

Further Information

Alice Trinkle: a.trinkle[at]fu-berlin.de