Call for Papers

Institute of Chinese Studies International Conference 2021
中國文化研究所國際學術會議 2021

December 15-16, 2021

The Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong is pleased to issue a call for papers for the inaugural conference in our Biennial Chinese Studies International Conference Series: 1978: Evolution or Revolution? With full-funding support for all selected participants and designed for eventual publication, this conference will be held in-person over December 15-16, 2021.* The conference languages will be English and Chinese.


Theme - 1978: Evolution or Revolution?

Views about the importance and relevance of 1978 as a watershed moment continue to be debated by China scholars in many disciplines. Where some perceive the transition from Mao to Deng as a radical break and a political reversal equivalent to a revolution, others emphasize the persistence of Maoist and socialist institutions and practices well into the current era. Some scholars have questioned the existence of a definitive “before” and a clear “after”. Even among those convinced of the shift to post- or late-socialism, questions of how to narrate this divide remain. How abrupt was this change and how do we periodize the process? Was this a matter of a year or two, or did it involve gradual and multiple changes over five, ten, twenty years or longer? What determined the rate of change in various aspects of governance, economy, culture and social life? For those who see continuity, what forms did this continuity take? Was it a matter of top-down governance receding in the economic realm even as it intensified in other areas, for instance, birth control and urban development? Did once explicit, publicly lauded visions survive or remain implicit? Did the repression of certain ideas and practices revive as conditions evolved? Were the changes or continuities more a matter of political direction or organizational form, economic development or technological change, entrenched habits and values or inalterable human tendencies? How do the answers to these questions inform our view of China’s history in the twentieth century and of China today? This conference aims to inspire reflective, critical re-evaluations of the relevance of this historical transition.



We invite scholars from all disciplines in the social sciences, humanities and beyond to narrate and theorize aspects of this divide. We welcome papers in topics as diverse as the role of state-owned enterprises in the economy; forms of economic organization; goals, patterns of alliance, and strategies of foreign policy; transformations in institutions like danwei, schools, or organs of government, and in forms of governance such as surveillance, modelling, punishing, re-educating, incentivizing and assimilating; policies toward, social strategies of and ruptures for the industrial working class, rural people, migrants, ethnic minorities and marginalized groups of all kinds and of all localities and regions – peri-urban Beijing to Tibet, Hulunbuir to Xishuangbanna; strategies of expression and control in the arts, literature, scholarship, religion and popular culture, and explorations of new imaginations, cultural representations, and social values available and arising; emerging new conceptions of connection to the world, including specifically to Hong Kong, Japan, the US and all migrant-receiving countries and Overseas Chinese communities; patterns of consumption and waste; visions of nature and practices of environmental destruction or conservation; shifting patterns of familial formation, sexuality and gender relations.



The conference will cover the costs of airfare to and from home institution (economy class), accommodation and meals during the conference.



Applicants should send a 300-500 word paper proposal and their CV to no later than July 2, 2021.


Enquiry / 3943 0406


Conference Organizing Committee

Professor Jan Kiely, Director of the Centre for China Studies, CUHK

Professor Andrew Kipnis, Department of Anthropology, CUHK

Professor Pierre Landry, Department of Government and Public Administration, CUHK

Professor Pang Laikwan, Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, CUHK

Professor Vivian Zhan, Department of Government and Public Administration, CUHK


* Remark: If public health conditions for travel or in Hong Kong do not permit the holding of the conference in-person, it will be rescheduled to a time when that will be possible.