Sigrid Schmalzer is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her published works include Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China (University of Chicago Press, 2016, recipient of the Levenson Prize), along with a children’s picture book based on that research, Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong’s Work for Sustainable Farming (Tilbury House Publishers, 2018). She also co-edited Science for the People: Documents from America’s Movement of Radical Scientists (University of Massachusetts Press, 2018). She is a founding member of the Critical China Scholars group and the revitalised Science for the People, and a vice-president in her faculty union.

Prometheus and the Fishpond

A Historical Account of Agricultural Systems and Eco-Political Power in the People’s Republic of China

Recent environmental projects of the Chinese state, including the preservation of ‘agricultural heritage’ and the promotion of ‘ecological civilisation’, are inspiring people from around the world. However, these endeavours are deeply embedded in two ideologies that foster technocratic and growth-oriented approaches to managing the natural environment: economic thinking and systems thinking. Meanwhile, the Chinese state’s very active involvement in these projects has increasingly served to limit the critical standpoint found among many proponents of ecological agriculture elsewhere. While state support for sustainability provides opportunities for much excellent scholarship and science, ecopolitics in China is also enhancing the power of an oppressive, technocratic state.

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