SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Maoism: a Global History

IMG - Julia Lovell (Birkbeck)
Prof. Julia Lovell (Birkbeck)

Date: 13 May 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 13 May 2019Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Wolfson Lecture Theatre (SWLT)

Type of Event: Talk

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In 2011, markers of Mao-style politics began to return to the mainstream of Chinese public life. That year, for the first time since the death of Mao in 1976, China experienced both an official and a popular revival of Maoist culture, with Bo Xilai’s experiment in neo-Maoist government in Chongqing, West China. Although Bo was publicly purged a year later, Xi Jinping, China’s new president since 2012, quickly inherited features of Bo’s Maoist project. In high Maoist style, Xi has intensified Party control alongside cultivating personal power, and has invoked distinctly Maoist language and techniques, such as criticism-self-criticism sessions, Mao’s strategy of the “mass line” and the personality cult.

Non-specialist Western commentators have seemed wrong-footed by Mao’s resurgence in Chinese politics. Many perhaps assumed that, as China turned commercial since the death of Mao, Mao and Chinese Communism were history. Yet Mao, his strategies and political model remain central to the legitimacy and functioning of China’s Communist government. There is also a pressing need to evaluate the power and allure of Maoism beyond China, for it has had a long afterlife in revolutions and insurrections in, for example, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Peru, India and Nepal, based on Mao’s theories of class struggle and guerrilla warfare. After briefly defining “Maoism”, this talk will seek to re-center Mao’s ideas and experiences as major forces that have shaped the world, as well as China, since World War II. The talk will conclude by assessing China’s current partial Maoist revival and its significance for China’s self-positioning in the world.


Julia Lovell is Professor of Modern China at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her most recent book is Maoism: A Global History (Bodley Head, 2019). Her several translations of modern Chinese fiction into English include The Real Story of Ah Q, and other Tales of China (Penguin Classics, 2010). She is currently completing a new translation of Journey to the West, to be published by Penguin Classics.


This event is open to the public and free to attend, however registration is required. Online Registration

Chair: Steve Tsang (Director, SOAS China Institute)

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4823