Anthropology Today, 30(6) pp 18-21

The following article, which is intended to complement other assessments, focuses on a significant dimension to the legacy of the prominent Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiao Tong his role as a public intellectual in Communist China. It was a role which had its origins in Republican China (1911-1949) with the struggle against Japanese imperialism (1937-1945) and for which Fei, a patriotic Chinese, was equipped, at least partially, by doctoral study in London in the late 1930s. It took definite shape following the People’s Liberation of China in 1949, with the coming to power of the Chinese Communist Party under the leadership of Mao Zedong. However, Fei’s career was to receive a dramatic setback when Maoist ideology was at its most fierce, especially during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Nevertheless, the end of Maoism in China and the country’s ‘Opening to the World’ under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping saw Fei Xiao Tong re-enter public life, both as a respected academic and as a public intellectual commentator on a China faced by many social problems. Fei believed that the social sciences provided a rational means for analyzing such problems and for finding solutions. This prompted him to comment publicly on social policy, particularly as it concerned the people of rural China; something which was to have serious personal and important professional consequences as the article shows.