Following Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957–58, Chinese intellectuals were subjected to “re-education” by the state. In Banished to the Great Northern Wilderness, Ning Wang draws on labour farm archives and other newly uncovered Chinese-language sources, including an interview with a camp guard, to provide a remarkable look at the suffering and complex psychological world of intellectuals banished to China’s remote north. Wang’s use of grassroots sources challenges our perception of the intellectual as a renegade martyr – revealing how exiles often denounced one another and, for self-preservation, declared allegiance to the state.
In this important, nuanced, and humane account of life within Chinese penal camps, Ning Wang complicates our picture of banished intellectuals by portraying them as complex human beings forced by circumstances to make some very difficult moral compromises.
Frank Dikötter, author of Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–62
This is the best scholarly book I’ve read about the experiences of those banished to penal camps in Mao’s China. Wang reveals the dynamic interplay between rightists, camp guards, camp officials, and local and central authorities. He also illuminates the long-term human toll of banishment in all of its complexity.
Jeremy Brown, author of Maoism at the Grassroots: Everyday Life in China’s Era of High Socialism
Seen through a wider lens, Ning Wang’s work inspires us to rethink thought and labour reform in China as part of a larger global history that continues to evolve.
Ulug Kuzuoglu, Columbia University
Pacific Affairs, Volume 91, No. 4
Wang’s exploration of political exiles in Mao’s China incorporates his exhaustive research into a truly beautiful narrative, full of individual voices… raw and moving … Banished to the Great Northern Wilderness [is] indispensable reading for anyone who wants to understand the history of the People’s Republic of China
Aminda Smith, Michigan State University
Historical Studies in Education