Between Chinese Youth and the Party: The Communist Youth League’s Revival and Adjustments in the Early Post-Mao Era


  • Sofia Graziani University of Trento



Chinese communist youth league, Chinese youth movement, Youth work, Hu Yaobang, Mass organisations, People's Republic of China


Since the beginning of the new century Chinese leaders have attempted to increase the ‘relevance’ of the Communist Youth League (CYL) by calling for a more responsive organisation as a way to cultivate political loyalty at a time of profound social change. Yet, the call for more responsive patterns of work is not new. Mainly based on the Chinese youth press, official documents, and leaders’ speeches, as well as memoirs and biographical material, this paper provides an organisational analysis of the CYL in the post Cultural Revolution period, focusing on the functional adjustments that were discussed when the CYL was revived nationally and the economic reforms were launched. As such, it explores early national initiatives, discourses, and debates surrounding the reform of the work of the CYL as developed through the 1980s, and highlights the influence of reform-minded political leaders in pursuing a new approach to “youth work” that, by envisaging a loosening of the Party’s control over League affairs, aimed at moving away from past practices and enabling the organisation to better relate to a wide range of youth concerns. This paper sheds light on the way the policies of reform and opening up impacted upon a traditional political body that was called to increasing responsiveness to the demands coming from society, but also shows the structural paradox of an institution embedded in the Leninist political system and designed to serve as an intermediary between the Party and the country’s youth.


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How to Cite

Graziani, S. (2021). Between Chinese Youth and the Party: The Communist Youth League’s Revival and Adjustments in the Early Post-Mao Era. The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, 2, 83–125.



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