Chinese society, as the country's economy has developed in the last four decades, has developed a narrative for its material aspirations, but the inner lives of Chinese people, because of the diversity and complexity of the country, remain as much a mystery now as they ever did. With a public discourse dominated by the language of 'socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era', and 'Xi Jinping Thought', and with ideas like 'rule by law' rather than 'rule of law', the country seems to have an orderly exceptionalism. And yet despite the dense networks that each person has created through social media, and the massive surveillance that has been targeted at this by the authorities, the story of what has been called 'deep China' - of what people what in their personal lives, and the kind of things that guide and sustain them, remains hard to capture. What can we make of a society that almost exists in two realms, and with a two-track ethics and language of expression - that of the Party with its adherence to collectivist notions of serving the people, and building a rich, strong country, and that of people and society more broadly, where to get rich is glorious, society seems pervaded by contention, and a kind of carnivalesque disarray prevails.
Co-hosted with the Oxford University China Centre as part of its Modern China Studies Seminar Series.
The Oxford Chinese Law Discussion Group is generously supported by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
About the speaker
Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London. From 2012 to 2015 he was Professor of Chinese Politics and Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia. Prior to this, he worked at Chatham House from 2006 to 2012, as Senior Fellow and then Head of the Asia Programme. From 1998 to 2005 he worked at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as First Secretary at the British Embassy in Beijing, and then as Head of the Indonesia, Philippine and East Timor Section. He lived in the Inner Mongolia region of China from 1994 to 1996. He has a Master of Arts from Cambridge University, a Post Graduate Diploma in Mandarin Chinese (Distinction) from Thames Valley University, London, and a PhD in Chinese politics and language from Leeds University. Kerry Brown directed the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN) giving policy advice to the European External Action Service between 2011 and 2014. He is the author of over ten books on modern Chinese politics, history and language, the most recent of which are The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China (2014), What's Wrong with Diplomacy: The Case of the UK and China (2015) and the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography (in Four Volumes- 2014-2015). His 'China's CEO: Xi Jinping' was published in 2016. 'China's World: What Does China Want' was published in August 2017.