Jeremy Wallace Lecture: Seeking Truth and Hiding Facts: Ideology, Information, and Authoritarianism in China
Numbers came to define Chinese politics, until they did not count what mattered and what they counted did not measure up. Jeremy Wallace's current book project argues that the Chinese government adopted a system of limited, quantified vision in order to survive the disasters unleashed by Mao Zedong’s ideological leadership, explains how that system worked, and analyzes how problems accumulated in its blind spots until Xi Jinping led the regime into a neopolitical turn. Xi’s new normal is an attempt fix the problems of the prior system, as well as a hedge against an inability to do so. The book argues that while of course dictators stay in power through coercion and cooptation, they also do so by convincing their populations and themselves of their right to rule. Quantification is one tool in this persuasive arsenal, but it comes with its own perils.
Jeremy Wallace is an associate professor of government at Cornell University, on sabbatical leave for 2021-22 at Georgetown’s Mortara Center for International Studies. He studies authoritarian politics focusing on China, cities, statistics, and climate change.