An old communist joke has it that Marxists can tell the future but find the past more difficult to predict. One-party states constantly rewrite their own history, if only because it legitimises the present. Frank Dikötter will discuss one of the most powerful narratives of our times: “the China story”. It goes like this: China was all misery and humiliation until it was liberated by the communists in 1949. A period of transition followed under Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, who turned China into a huge success story that has become a viable alternative to western style democracy. Endless versions of this story are propagated not only by Beijing, but also by politicians, entrepreneurs or sinologists around the world. Dikötter, one of the most renowned scholars of modern Chinese history, gives “the China story” a critical reality check.
We invite Frank Dikötter, Bestselling Author and Chair Professor of Humanities at University of Hong Kong to discuss.
The Dutch historian Frank Dikötter is best known as the author of the “People’s Trilogy”, a series of books that document the impact of communism on the lives of ordinary people in China based on new archival material. The first volume, entitled “Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe”, won the 2011 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.