University of Oregon’s Richard Kraus to discuss Chinese culture and politics at PSU
Is art at its best when fashioned under heavy political and cultural constraints?
Richard Kraus, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Oregon, will address this popular question in his lecture “China’s Arts: From Mao to Now.” He will discuss the tight bond between current Chinese politics and its culture. The event will be held this Monday in the Smith Memorial Student Union.
“I will compare [Communist] Party controls at the end of the Maoist era with its current efforts to shape culture,” Kraus said. “China does not have a liberal cultural regime. Many Chinese don’t want one, and many of those who do find themselves on the front line of political conflict.”
Intellectuals in the U.S., however, tend not to give China its due credit, according to Kraus.
“Americans often fail to recognize the extent to which three decades of rapid economic change have made China more open, tolerant and diverse,” he said.
Kraus’s projects and areas of inquiry include the political history of the piano in China; the social functions of calligraphy, nude painting, arts patronage and censorship; and China’s drive to recover art objects plundered by Western imperialists. He has been a distinguished member of U of O’s staff since 1982, but his fascination with Chinese politics began long before.
“[I became interested in China] in college in the early 1960s,” Kraus said. “The United States government’s extreme anti-Chinese foreign policy piqued my curiosity. No country could possibly be as bad as Washington claimed China to be.”
In his lecture, which is sponsored by the Confucius Institute at PSU, Kraus will discuss the relationship between Mao’s death and the cultural and economic changes in China that followed. These shifts have led to greater encouragement for self-expression in a time when the country’s ruling Communist Party—who once sought control over the arts—now struggles merely to influence them.
Such transformations, Kraus explains, are not uncommon.
“As in other countries, China’s culture is being transformed by new technology and also by the passing of an older generation and its tastes,” Kraus said. “New prosperity has created popular demand for art and entertainment. New cultural products and trends appear quickly.” When China was poor and culture was more dependent upon state funding, the Party could control it more easily.
“Today it is much harder for politicians to regulate,” he said,
When asked if he believed these changes in Chinese culture would continue, Kraus gave a definitive answer: “You bet.”
The Confucius Institute at PSU presents
“China’s Arts: From Mao to Now”
Monday, March 12
Noon to 6 p.m.
Smith Memorial Student Union 236
Free and open to the public