n undertaking research, oneshouldneverunderestimatethepo
or import of serendipitous moments, and this book lends testimony
fact. Back in 1993, I sat at my desk in Beijing University trying
figure out how to begin this book.The words did not come easily. More
of frustration than inspiration, my eyes and mind wandered. Moving fr
the wall to the floor, they finally fixed upon a computer mouse pad tha
former student and friend, David Bray, had given me. Called the ‘‘Mao Pa
its surface was covered with famous sayings of the late Chairman. One s
ing, in particular, stood out. For reasons that I could not have known at
time, the phrase ‘‘who are our enemies and who are our friends?’’ lodged
my mind. And, while this mouse pad incident happened over ten years a
it precipitated a slow transformation of this project. From a linear, nar
tive history revealing the origins of socialist policing in China, it eventu
became an empirical work that, hopefully, also speaks to us about the
ture of commitment politics and the passions that drive it. If the Mao p
incident provided the theoretical impetus for this work, it was the Minis
of Public Security that provided the empirical content.
By the mid-nineties, its research units had begun work on an official h
tory of socialist policing in China and, to facilitate this, its Police Stud
Association ordered each provincial Public Security Bureau research bran
to collect historical materials. They gathered up old records, regulatio
and stories of communist policing and social control.Theyconducted int
views with old comrades, collected diaries and notes, and also asked
surviving participants to write their reminiscences. In the end, a library
material would be produced and this came to form the empirical backbo
both for their study and for mine.
In using the socialist police as my tour guide, I learned much about
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