Pursuing the Special Agent—Adaptation of Mao Dun’s
Fushi and the Politics of Representing Espionage

By Ying Du

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 29, no.2  (Fall 2017), pp. 159-205

The essay focuses on the discursive process of Mao Dun’s Fushi (1941, 1950, 1954) in terms of its publication history and film adaptation to uncover the genesis of counterespionage films as a genre. The object is not just to study Fushi in its discursive development, but to place it in a series of entangled contexts, including the political, legislative, and cultural, and analyze it in relation to the cultural process of the Maoist era and the Cold War culture. The author studies how these emergent popular expressions could be constructed so as to conform to the required new Cold War attitudes, and at the same time contrive to suppress the original internal crises under the new ideological requirements of the Mao era.

Revolving around the presentational evolution of the character of Huiming from 1941 to 1954, the essay looks at which elements were retained and which excluded, and the cultural politics that drove this process. The author argues that the set of cultural politics was largely structured by the exigencies of war anxiety and that not a small number of cultural agents’ initiatives enlisted the fictional in the service of the political, which also characterized the discursive practices of the early 1950s. Instead of simply inquiring how political imperatives were imposed on an individual cultural worker robbing him of creative freedom, the essay aims to reveal how, as a result of the more complex interplay between involved cultural agents, political power, and mass audiences, a new set of distinctive cultural, political, and legislative discourses came into being at the start of the PRC.