Home Issues Past Issues MCS 2015 Issue 1 Soviet Spaceships In Socialist China: Reading Soviet Popular Literature In The 1950s
Soviet Spaceships In Socialist China:
Reading Soviet Popular Literature In The 1950s
Abstract: The formation of a new popular (or middlebrow) literature in the People’s Republic of China is generally believed to have drawn chiefly on Chinese leftist experiments and prescriptions from the 1940s, most notably Mao’s “Yan’an Talks.” Much less well-known is the introduction and dissemination of foreign, and especially Soviet, popular culture in China in the 1950s. In the larger context of “Learning from the Soviet Union,” the young PRC saw an influx of Soviet films, popular music, and literature. Apart from the classics of Socialist Realism, Chinese publishing houses provided the urban reading public with a wide array of popular reading matter that found an avid audience in China and quickly gained a following. This paper discusses the translation and dissemination in China of a particularly popular genre, science fiction, and focusing a popular series (congshu) published in the early and mid-1950s. I argue that these books not only filled a gap left by the banning of Western pulp fiction after 1949, but also sought to kindle the imagination through the projection of futuristic images like space stations and interplanetary travel, fearless anti-capitalist spymasters and roaming borderland scouts. These popular images of a technologically empowered future fuelled by a superior morality and ideology tied in nicely with the value systems and promises about a future socialist utopia that the CCP sought to disseminate through other channels, while at the same time creating a sense of community, drawing Chinese readers into the orbit of a transnational socialist universe of cultural consumption.