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The Good Book and the Good Life: Bestselling Biographies in China's Economic Reform

Emily Chua Huiching
The China Quarterly
No. 198 (Jun., 2009), pp. 364-380
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27756456
Page Count: 17
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Good Book and the Good Life: Bestselling Biographies in China's Economic Reform
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Abstract

This article looks at currently bestselling biographies in urban China as popular histories of the national self from 1949 to the present. In their retrospective narrations of the Cultural Revolution and economic reform, they identify a reorientation of life away from ideological community and towards market rationality. I locate this shift also in the history of the publishing industry that produces them and analyse how publishing practices and values have changed from Mao to Jiang, to argue that a reconstitution of the "good" has been effected by the deployment of old rhetorical goals under structurally new conditions. Extended into the broader political arena, this suggests that institutional continuity in contemporary China masks a reconstitution of governance itself, from direct intervention and political control to administrative regulation and commercial competitiveness. Communist revolutionary ambitions are now redefined and fulfilled through economic success in commercial enterprise. Contrary to the prevalent notion that such couplings are contradictory and unsustainable, I argue that a mutually generative relationship currently exists between the two.

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