Youth Political Mobilization & Socialization in Contemporary China: The Centenary of the Communist Youth League


Thu - Fri, Sep 8 to Sep 9, 8:20am - 1:15pm


Virtual event, registration required

2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the official establishment of the Chinese Communist Youth League (中国共产主义青年团, CYL), one of the largest youth political organizations in the world. As the Chinese Communist Party’s assistant and reserve force, the CYL is the Party’s main channel to socialize youth in the official political discourse and practices, and mobilize them to support the current system. Despite the importance of the organization, English-language academic work on its history, politics and multifaceted role in contemporary China remains sporadic.

The CYL’s centenary offers an opportunity to bring together scholars from different disciplines to discuss their research and insights on Chinese youth political socialization and mobilization, with particular attention to the League and connected youth organizations. The Ash Center, working with Dr. Jérôme Doyon (University of Edinburgh), Dr. Sofia Graziani (University of Trento) and Dr. Konstantinos Tsimonis (King’s College London), is pleased to organize an online seminar, taking place on September 8th and 9th, examining emerging scholarship related to communist youth organizations in China. 

Register for day one (9/8)
Register for day two (9/9)

Thursday, September 8th 


8:20-8:30 AM ET
Tony Saich (Harvard Kennedy School) 

Panel 1: The Mobilization of Youth during the Chinese Communist Party’s Early Years 

8:30 to 10:30 AM ET
Chair: Prof. Sofia Graziani (University of Trento)
Discussant: Prof. Elizabeth Perry (Harvard University)

  • ‘The Communist Youth at the grassroots: An internal perspective on the Shanghai organization, 1922-27’ (Yi Shensi, University of Sydney)
  • ‘Always Prepared: Mobilizing Children in the Jiangxi Soviet’ (Margaret Tillman, Purdue University)
  • ‘A “Chinese Joan of Arc” in the World: Lu Cui and the 1930s Transnational Youth Movement’ (Ren Ke, College of the Holy Cross)
  • ‘Communist Policies on Mobilizing Youths in Wartime China’ (Lei Duan, Sam Houston State University)

Break (10:30 to 11:00 AM ET)

Panel 2: The Socialization and Co-optation of Young Chinese 

11:00 AM to 1:00 PM ET
Chair: Dr. Jérôme Doyon (University of Edinburgh)
Discussant: Prof. Tom Gold (University of California Berkeley)

  • ‘Party and Youth League Membership and Ethnicity in Yunnan Colleges in the Maoist Period’ (Joseph Lawson, Newcastle University)
  • ‘Cultivating the "Successors of Socialism": Communist Youth Leagues' Ideological and Political Education Program in China's Middle Schools’ (Henrik Nykvist, MF Norwegian School of Theology & Zhou Yunyun, University of Oslo)
  • ‘Control, Consequence, and Authority/Order:  Political Socialization in Cadre Selection of Chinese High-School Classes’ (Liu Jiang, Harvard University)
  • ‘Winning the Youth Economic Elites in China: The Role of the United Front Work Department’ (Zhang Zhu, University of Oklahoma) 

Friday, September 9th 

Panel 3: Youth Organizations and State-Society Relations 

8:30 to 10:30 AM 
Chair: Dr. Konstantinos Tsimonis (King’s College London)
Discussant: Prof. Laura De Giorgi (Ca’Foscari University of Venice)

  • ‘After Revolution: Mass Media, Opinion Surveillance, and Ideological Reinvention of the Chinese Communist Youth League, 1976-1983’ (Huang Yanjie, National University of Singapore)
  • ‘Student Politics, Extracurricular Activities, and the Communist Youth League on a Chinese University Campus’ (Sum Chun-Yi, Boston University)
  • ‘The Dialectics of Power and Attraction: From Romantic Publics to State-Citizen Attachments in Contemporary China’ (Zhao Shanni, Harvard University)
  • ‘Forced to Be Apolitical: A Comparative and Multilayer Approach to Political Avoidance’ (Guo Weirong, Emory University)

Break (10:30 to 11:00 AM)

Panel 4: Youth Narratives and Propaganda 

11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Chair: Dr. Yue Chunying (Harvard University)
Discussant: Prof. Diana Fu (University of Toronto)

  • ‘Mobilizing Youth in Mao Era China: Self-Making and Socialist Construction’ (Robert Culp, Bard College)
  • ‘A League of Propaganda toward Chinese Youths and beyond: A Basic-Level Case Study of the CYL’s Propagandistic Role in the Early 1950s.’ (Tang Sanjiao, Seoul National University)
  • ‘Expansion or Consolidation: The Effects of Chinese Youth League’s Use of Social Media’ (Chen Yunzhe, Nanjing University of Science and Technology & Li Xiang, Guangdong University of Finance)
  • ‘Harnessing online entertainment and uniting with the Generation Z in China: the changing strategies of Chinese Communist Youth League on Bilibili’ (Shang Zheyu, Leiden University) 
  • ‘The Adaptability of the Chinese Communist Youth League: Learning and Adapting Youth Culture to Mobilize Youth’ (Chen Siru, University of Toronto)

Concluding Remarks 

1:00-1:15 PM
Prof. Stanley Rosen (Southern Californa)

Event Details  

Discussions will take place over two days. Attendees must register for each day respectively. 

The Ash Center encourages individuals with disabilities to participate in its events. Should you wish to enquire about an accommodation, please contact our events team at prior to the event. 

Additional questions? Email the Ash Center events team at

This workshop is sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School and organized in collaboration with the Lau China Institute – King’s College London and the School of International Studies - University of Trento.