Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPHIL)





First Advisor

Prof. DU Chunmei

Second Advisor

Prof. PIANCIOLA Niccolo


The Socialist Education Movement, also known as the Four Cleanups Campaign, was a nation-wide political movement that took place between 1963 and 1966 in China. The initial aim of the movement was to deal with the grassroots cadres’ corruption problems. However, the authority later conducted a class reconsideration work, and all the peasants became the targets of the movement. This project uses meeting records, self-inspection reports, personal statements, and a variety of other grassroots materials from the Jinjiapu Village in northern China to study peasants’ experience and discourses during the campaign. In contrast to the previous studies that focus on peasants’ economic and political behaviors, this study shows how they used language as a tool when faced with a mighty state power. By studying peasants’ agencies from the perspective of their own words and ways of thinking, my thesis shows that local peasants not only had their own rationale for life and events, but they also developed a set of linguistic techniques in understanding and reinterpreting the revolutionary discourses of the political authority. Peasants borrowed the grandest revolutionary terms from official documents and stuffed them with daily trifles and local conflicts, therefore, challenging the sanctity of the revolution. At the same time, they were also disciplined by state power.



Recommended Citation

Ma, W. (2020). On their own terms: A case study of Chinese peasants’ linguistic techniques during the socialist education movement (Master's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from