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April Fifth Movement

(499 words)

Author(s): Heilmann, Sebastian
On the occasion of the Chinese Qingming festival (Grave Sweeping Day) in late March and early April 1976, massive mourning and protest gatherings were held in at least 40 provincial cities and in Beijing. Hundreds of thousands mourned the death of Premier Zhou Enlai who had died in January 1976 and who had been perceived as exponent of a course towards political and economic consolidation within the Chinese leadership. At the same time, parts of the protesters directed vehement attacks against t…


(1,950 words)

Author(s): Heilmann, Sebastian
In imperial China, the control over the bureaucratic apparatus was in the hands of the Censorate. Its control agencies reached down to the county level, which was the lowest level at which central state power was represented. Below the county level, the population was supervised by a sub-bureaucracy of the county administration and by self-administrative agencies (local government). This pattern has changed in the People's Republic, due to the fact that all areas of the state, the economy, and o…

Student Protest

(2,460 words)

Author(s): Heilmann, Sebastian
Student protests have a long tradition in China, which goes back to the era preceding the founding of the People's Republic. Starting with the May Fourth Movement of 1919, the Republic of China repeatedly witnessed such protests - in particular in 1925, 1931, and 1947- which mobilized broader sections of the population against the foreign powers or against the policy of the Guomindang. The self-perception of Chinese students as an avant-garde whose task it is to "arouse the masses" ( huanqi minzhong), which prevailed also under Communist rule until well into the 1980s, hails…

People's Republic of China

(4,316 words)

Author(s): Domes, Jürgen | Heilmann, Sebastian
The history of the PRC is the history of a state and a society that for the past 50 years have been characterized by a one-party system of the Marxist-Leninist type. Its external signs are mass campaigns, stages of turbulent "building of socialism" marked by five-year plans, and by phases of correction; its internal structural characteristics are intra-elite crises and social conflicts. The proclamation of the People's Republic on October 1, 1949, seemed to signal to many observers that the triu…

Political System

(6,437 words)

Author(s): Emmerich, Reinhard | Cabestan, Jean Pierre | Heilmann, Sebastian | Schubert, Gunter
1. Imperial Period For over 2000 years, the Chinese seriously questioned the concept of the empire neither in political theory nor in practice, and the imperial period (221 BCE to 1911) is thus by far the longest era of Chinese history. The following sketched generalizations, however, must not conceal the fact that China's political system, here understood in the restricted sense of "system of government", underwent considerable historical changes. These changes took place essentially because the I…