Left and Right, and Organic and Critical: Understanding the Politics of China's Intellectuals

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 414
Oral Presentation
Zhidong HAO , University of Macau, Taipa, Macau
In today’s China, intellectuals continue to play important roles in social, economic, and political development. Much has been done on the roles of the public intellectuals in China in the reform era (Cheek 2006; Goldman 1994, 1999; Edward Gu and Merle Goldman 2004; Zhidong Hao 2003; Kelly 2006), but the intellectual scene is developing so fast with increasingly clearer demarcations between the left and right that it remains an interesting and daunting challenge to describe more accurately what those roles are and why they matter. This article is one of those efforts towards a better understanding of China’s intellectuals and their political roles.

In this article, I will first define the term “intellectuals” and their political positions and roles to play, or their subjectivities, in terms of organic, critical, and professional. Then I will define the left and right intellectuals. Thirdly, I will examine contemporary Chinese intellectuals’ political positions. We will find that the left intellectuals are more likely to be organic to the government, and the right intellectuals are more likely to be critical of it. Fourthly, I will emphasize the complexity, subjectivity, and dynamics of intellectual politics in terms of the changeability of their political roles, the organic intellectuals’ living for or off politics, and the commonality between the left and right intellectuals. Finally I will speculate on the possible future development of intellectual politics and their implications for China’s democratization.

The method of analysis in the paper is typological, i.e., I am categorizing intellectuals into left and right, and organic and critical. The representative texts I am analyzing to substantiate the typologies are mainly from the Internet and the traditional media because this is where the battle between the left (organic) and the right (critical) over the politics of the government is mainly waged.