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Liu Binyan's odyssey : intellectuals and the state in the PRC Zhu, Caixia


The complex relationship between Chinese intellectuals and the Party-state has been an important aspect of China's politics since 1949. This paper deals with the intellectual-state relationship in general and with the life of Liu Binyan--a prominent Chinese intellectual--in particular. The paper explains how cultural traditions drew Chinese intellectuals into the nation's politics and how the intellectuals’ self-image affected both their attitudes and behaviour toward the state and society, as well as their fate in the Chinese polity after 1949. The objective of the paper is, from this perspective, to provide a better understanding of the intellectuals' political position in China today. The methodology of the paper is to approach the topic from a historical perspective. The paper suggests that Chinese intellectuals, as a social group, have been recognized as an elite class since ancient times and are an integral part of the PRC political establishment. Their attitudes toward the state, the society and social masses have been consistently characterized by patriotism, patronage and paternalism. The paper argues that, considering their close attachment to political power and deep involvement in political affairs, Chinese intellectuals are largely responsible for their destiny. The paper observes that, through the analysis of Liu's experience, Chinese intellectuals have frequently faced a dilemma by playing a dual-role: as a spokesperson for both the regime, and for the people. A dilemma that Chinese intellectuals have yet to resolve. In the last chapter, while pointing out changes in China's economic infrastructure and its impact on the on-going intellectual-state relationship, the author concludes that the present pattern of the intellectual-state relationship will continue.

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