Kristin Stapleton - Professor of History, University at Buffalo, SUNY
The role of cities in the schemes and visions of Chinese political activists and administrators has varied widely over the past 120 years. Economic conditions shaping cities have also shifted radically. In the current era of fantastical urban growth, can any continuities be seen in China’s urban history? This talk addresses this question via a survey of scholarship in the field and the results of my own work on the history of Chengdu, an important provincial capital and cultural center, from the late Qing to the early Communist period. Of particular interest is how the state has promoted as well as harnessed urban entrepreneurship in service to statecraft ideals that can be traced to the imperial era. The concept of “city,” I argue, will be fundamentally transformed as Chinese thinking about urbanization becomes more influential across the world.
Kristin Stapleton teaches at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and serves as editor of the journal Twentieth-Century China and on the editorial board of Education about Asia. She is the author of two books on the west China city of Chengdu, the most recent one built around the famous 1930s novel Family, by Ba Jin. She studied at the University of Michigan and Harvard, as well as at Sichuan University. Her current research concerns urban life in China in the 1950s.