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Dilemmas of Victory

Dilemmas of Victory

The Early Years of the People's Republic of China

Edited by Jeremy Brown and Paul G. Pickowicz

ISBN 9780674047020

Publication date: 03/15/2010

This illuminating work examines the social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions of the Communist takeover of China. Instead of dwelling on elite politics and policy-making processes, Dilemmas of Victory seeks to understand how the 1949-1953 period was experienced by various groups, including industrialists, filmmakers, ethnic minorities, educators, rural midwives, philanthropists, stand-up comics, and scientists.

A stellar group of authors that includes Frederic Wakeman, Elizabeth Perry, Sherman Cochran, Perry Link, Joseph Esherick, and Chen Jian shows that the Communists sometimes achieved a remarkably smooth takeover, yet at other times appeared shockingly incompetent. Shanghai and Beijing experienced it in ways that differed dramatically from Xinjiang, Tibet, and Dalian. Out of necessity, the new regime often showed restraint and flexibility, courting the influential and educated. Furthermore, many policies of the old Nationalist regime were quietly embraced by the new Communist rulers.

Based on previously unseen archival documents as well as oral histories, these lively, readable essays provide the fullest picture to date of the early years of the People's Republic, which were far more pluralistic, diverse, and hopeful than the Maoist decades that followed.


  • The history of the early People's Republic is one of the more exciting frontiers in the study of modern China. These essays show that it is possible to address many central issues in the history of the early 1950s from perspectives other than those of the central government or party. Very well researched and well written, Dilemmas of Victory will receive wide attention, and I recommend it with enthusiasm.

    —William C. Kirby, Harvard University


  • Jeremy Brown is Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University.
  • Paul G. Pickowicz is Distinguished Professor of History and Chinese Studies at the University of California, San Diego and inaugural holder of the UC San Diego Modern Chinese History Endowed Chair.

Book Details

  • 480 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press