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The Shopfloor as Stage

Production competition, democracy, and the unfulfilled promise of Red Flag Song
Ying Qian
p. 7-14


In this paper, I read the play Red Flag Song (1948) as a window into a moment of missed opportunity in China’s revolution, when the Party’s re-engagement with the urban working class could have strengthened democratic tendencies within the Party, and when China’s critical realist literary tradition could have grounded Chinese socialism in the real-life experiences and aspirations of the grassroots. Written at a time when the Party’s control of both industrial and literary productions had begun to tighten, Red Flag Song registered compromise as well as defiance on the shopfloor, and foregrounded two issues as deeply related and fundamental to the making of a New China: work-place democracy as the basis for making China’s working class, and realist literature as a means of understanding complexities and pluralities in social upheavals, and of ensuring a humane and democratic socialism. Unfortunately, the visions Red Flag Song carried were never realised in the following years. They remain unfulfilled promises of the Chinese revolution.

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Bibliographical reference

Ying Qian, « The Shopfloor as Stage », China Perspectives, 2015/2 | 2015, 7-14.

Electronic reference

Ying Qian, « The Shopfloor as Stage », China Perspectives [Online], 2015/2 | 2015, Online since 01 January 2017, connection on 21 June 2018. URL :

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About the author

Ying Qian

Ying Qian is a postdoctoral fellow, Australian Centre on China in the World,188 Fellows Lane, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia (

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