In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2012. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, pp. 83–98.
In the 1950s, the attempt to create a communist ‘New Man’ became one of the most important features of state socialism in China. The ‘New Man’ was not just a theoretical concept found in the Communist Party and state’s discourse; the revolutionary transformation of society as a whole was undertaken as part of the effort to enable his creation. This paper combines two approaches to examine the shaping of China’s ‘New Man’: firstly, by providing an analysis of relevant debates, particularly within the context of the Great Leap Forward (1958–60); and then by presenting a case study to show how the party state attempted to translate theory into practice in Xinjiang. Thousands of migrants came to this westernmost Chinese border region from other parts of China to swell the ranks of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a large semi-military, semi-civilian organization that functioned as a vehicle of the Beijing government’s agenda. The members of the Corps were hailed by the state media as exemplary Socialist heroes and portrayed as archetypes of the ‘New Man’. This cohesive community, defined through everyday lives spent side by side in closely confined settlements, through struggles and hardships, internalized the idea of being China’s ‘New Man’ at that time and remains committed to this concept today.