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UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal

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Carceral Strategy and the Social Structure in Maoist China

  • Author(s): Lin, Mao-Hong
  • et al.

This Article explores the connection between the carceral strategy utilized by the Chinese government and the social structure in the Mao era.  From Mao’s view, thought reform and profit-seeking were the two primary goals of the Chinese socialist prison.  Yet, by placing the system of labor camps and post-release management into a broader context, this Article demonstrates that the system was designed to make inmates depend on the socialist settings through the measures of party-state apparatus, prisoner cards and dossiers, classification of prisoners, hard labor, and thought remolding.  Those measures had their counterparts in the general social structure in communist China, like work unit, household registration and political dossier.  In addition, the unique feature of punishment-profit nexus made the system of labor camps and post-release management crucial for the purposes of economic development and political control in Mao’s time.  In conclusion, the system of labor camps and post-release management was an integral part of the greater social control mechanism in Chinese society during Mao’s time.  It was designed and operated in a way to reform an ill population into qualified workers so as to fit socialist requirements and maintain social stability.

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