Toward Mass Progress: Emulation and Innovation in a Chinese Radio Factory

Speaker: Yingchuan Yang, PhD candidate in the History-East Asia Program, Columbia University
Venue: Room E403, NYU Shanghai New Bund Campus
Date & Time:
2023-8-29 | 16:45-19:00

In 1962, Beijing United Radio Factory (BURF) launched an ambitious campaign to produce an eight-tube semiconductor radio, Peony 8402. The problem, nevertheless, was that neither the workforce nor the equipment in BURF were adequate for making such a technologically sophisticated gadget. This talk explores how BURF organized all its staff to engage in a series of mass emulation and innovation practices from reverse engineering to improvisational assembly techniques. Unlike the extant narrative that holds Maoist mobilizational politics accountable for setbacks in industrial development, I suggest that native emulation of advanced technology and mass participation in technical innovation on the factory floor made it possible for the production of a cutting-edge radio during the height of Chinese socialism.

Yingchuan Yang is a PhD candidate in the History-East Asia Program at Columbia University. His dissertation, ā€œRevolution on the Air: Radio and the Mass Technology of Chinese Socialism,ā€ offers a new understanding of Chinese socialism as a mass technological project by investigating the state-sponsored popularization of radio technology and expertise as well as its unexpected consequences from the 1950s to the 1980s. He received his BA in history from University of California, Los Angeles in 2016.

Introduction by Maria Adele Carrai, Assistant Professor of Global China Studies, NYU Shanghai.

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