CfP: Deadline extension: Special Issue JEACS “Ciphering and Ruling China’s Population”


Call for Papers for a Special Issue of The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, guest-edited by Andrea Bréard and Stefan Christ

Ciphering and Ruling China’s Population

Numbers pertaining to the size, structure and evolution of the Chinese population have mattered significantly to officials, thinkers and the military for a long time. The twentieth century has witnessed a particularly strong increase in attempts by bureaucrats, scientists, politicians and intellectuals to quantify the Chinese population. Statistical numbers were taken as unambiguously describing social reality and served as fundamentals for government measures and determining policy goals.

While countless studies deal with the composition of China’s population and demographic politics, this special issue will focus on the intellectual, political and social production as well as the afterlife of sometimes only apparently scientifically produced numbers, ratios, and quotas in relation to the Chinese population. Rather than simply viewing these numbers as the objective outcome of quantitative research representing reality, numbers are understood as ciphers, which encode a hidden reality that goes beyond their numerical actuality. Such ciphers will be at the center of attention and the very object of inquiry: the contributions to this special issue will tackle discourses and practices related to the emergence, circulation, transformation, adaptation, and, if applicable, persistence or discarding of numerical values related to population from (potentially) the earliest state formations in Chinese history to the present. Drawing on the approaches of cultural, intellectual and conceptual history as well as the sociology of science, the individual articles examine how numbers are “alive” and enmeshed in specific historical contexts, repeatedly crossing functional boundaries, representing, affecting, and transforming individual lives, social groups, and political concepts. Possible research questions include:

  • How are numbers used to make arguments and establish narratives about China’s “population”, “society”, “nation” or “people(s)”?
  • In which ways does the production, manipulation and publication of numbers contribute to ruling China’s population?
  • How and why do the meanings and practical applications of numbers related to population change?
  • What explains the “avalanche of numbers” in the twentieth century?
  • How did statistics become a sine qua non for governing China’s population?
  • Why are numbers so alluring and even become fetishized – even though those involved in producing and using the numbers are aware of their imprecision?
  • How did specific numbers – like the “400 million (Chinese)” – become central political terms or even concepts?

The extended deadline for submissions is August 15, 2024.

Papers written in English (max. 10,000 words) should be supplemented with an abstract (250 words) and 5 keywords in both English and Chinese, and should follow the Author Guidelines and Style Sheet provided on the submission webpage:

Papers must be submitted by August 15, 2024 via the journal’s webpage:

For registration to our open journal system, please write to journal[at]

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