Neil Burton and the Historic Debate on China's Future: Echoes from the Past to the Present

January 24, 2013 from 7pm - 9pm
Fraser Building, room 159
University of Victoria, Victoria, BC


Thirty-five years ago, the young Canadian teacher, editor and activist Neil Burton played an important role in the key international dispute about the future of China in the immediate post-Cultural Revolution years. That debate - about economic reform, inequality, and China's road to modernization - echoes down to the present in current disputes in China about social equality, corruption, and the regulation of China's powerful market economy. It pitted Burton, a young Canadian teacher living in Beijing who was directly familiar with Chinese people's desires to reduce the emphasis on politics in their lives and move toward economic reforms and greater economic freedoms, against Charles Bettelheim, the famous French Marxist philosopher and political economist and a lion of the post-World War II pro-Mao European left, who argued against Deng Xiaoping's liberalizing moves and in favor of continued Maoist policies. Now, 35 years later, Neil Burton and Charles Bettelheim's historic battle is significant once again as China struggles with rising inequality, social unrest, the rise of civil society, and adapting this now-powerful Chinese market economy to a new era.

This talk was the third annual Neil Burton Memorial Lecture and will be given by Mark Sidel, Doyle-Bascom professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Neil Burton (1941-2010) was a long-time advocate for closer Asia-Canada relations and went to China as part of the first Canada-China student exchange in 1973. He lived in China for eight years and then in Japan for 18 years before returning to Canada in 1990. Neil taught at Sophia University, the University of Toronto and at UVic. A commemorative fund has been established in his honour.

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