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At a time when many in the West are convinced that China has perfected the art of dictatorship, a growing number of writers, artists, bloggers and filmmakers are challenging the Chinese Communist Party on its most sensitive turf: its control of history. These grassroots historians are using digital technologies to document the party's missteps, from its ascent to power in the 1940s to its coverup of the coronavirus. The result: a remarkable outpouring of samizdat publications and underground films that is slowly breaking the state's monopoly on the truth and challenging its right to rule.
Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer focusing on society, religion, and history. He was awarded a 2020-2021 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars fellowship for a new book he is writing on China's unofficial history.