He Qinglian

b. 1956, Hunan
He Qinglian is one of the most celebrated critics of China’s economic and political system, arguing that reforms have been hijacked by officials and well-connected elites. He’s sense of social justice was forged through her family’s suffering during the Cultural Revolution. After earning a BA in history at Hunan Normal University and an MA in economics at Fudan University (1988), she moved to the special economic zone of Shenzhen. She worked in the city’s propaganda department, then in a large company, and finally for the Shenzhen Legal Daily. He became disillusioned by what she saw in this city ostensibly at the forefront of progress. In 1997 she published China’s Pitfalls (Zhongguode xianjing) in Hong Kong. It was released the following year in the PRC—with the most sensitive details removed—as The Pitfalls of Modernization (Xiandaihuade xianjing).
Chinese academics had written dry analyses on rent-seeking, but He coupled such charges with myriad cases of the ‘marketization of power’—how officials misappropriate funds, accept bribes, extort small businesses and profit by re-selling goods bought at low state prices at higher market prices.
To He, corruption is not a necessary evil and side-effect of reform, but the primary product of reform. Pitfalls sold 200,000 legal copies and countless more pirated editions. Senior officials originally encouraged Pitfalls, but the political winds changed and she came under attack. In mid 2000, after an essay on China’s distorted social structure appeared, she was demoted, and authorities ordered the country’s editors not to publish her work, though We are Still Watching the Starry Sky (Women rengan zai yangwang xingkong) was published in Guilin. In June 2001, facing possible arrest, she fled to the United States. She is presently teaching at the City University of New York.
He, Qinglian (2003). ‘A Listing Social Structure’. In Wang Chaohua (ed.), One China, Many Paths. London: Verso, 163–88.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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