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Making It Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China

April 15, 2021 - 14:00-15:15

Talk and book discussion with Arunabh Ghosh, Harvard University, a part of the Asian Futures Seminar Series.

Arunabh Ghosh is a historian of modern China, with research and teaching interests in social and economic history, history of science and statecraft, transnational history, and China-India history.

In his book Making it Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the early People’s Republic of China (Princeton University Press, 2020), he investigates how Chinese officials used statistics to define a new society in the early years of the People’s Republic of China.

In 1949, at the end of a long period of wars, one of the biggest challenges facing leaders of the new People’s Republic of China was how much they did not know. The government of one of the world’s largest nations was committed to fundamentally reengineering its society and economy via socialist planning while having almost no reliable statistical data about their own country. Making It Count is the history of efforts to resolve this “crisis in counting.” Drawing on a wealth of sources culled from China, India, and the United States, Arunabh Ghosh explores the choices made by political leaders, statisticians, academics, statistical workers, and even literary figures in attempts to know the nation through numbers.

Anchored in debates about statistics and its relationship to state building, Making It Count offers fresh perspectives on China’s transition to socialism.

  • Conveners: Ravinder Kaur and Jørgen Delman
  • Discussant: Mikkel Bunkenborg

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Read more about the book on the publisher’s website Princeton University Press.

Making It Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China


April 15, 2021


ADI – Asian Dynamics Initiative
Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, Copenhagen University