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Ricardo Rudas Meo 丁凯铎

Ricardo Rudas Meo

Ricardo Rudas Meo

Doctoral Candidate



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Doctoral Project

(Mis)communication across the Early People’s Republic of China: Language Barriers in Early Chinese Communist State- and Nation-Building at China’s Peripheries


My project centres around how the young Chinese Communist Party-state attempted to communicate with the linguistically diverse population of its envisioned nation-state during the 1950s. Establishing national statehood in Communist-led China depended on spreading new information – technological, legal, ideological—to a large, scattered, multi-ethnic, and mostly illiterate population. I aim to examine the challenges language barriers posed in this state- and nation-building context.

To this end, I investigate the obstacle language barriers posed to the establishment of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule across the early People’s Republic of China (PRC). I will explore how the CCP overcame language barriers when spreading propaganda, implementing policies, collecting taxes etc. and how experiences of (mis)communication between the centre and the peripheries unfolded. This project addresses first encounters between a state bureaucracy and local communities; issues around language barriers in an empire-to-nation-state transformation; and language-based challenges in the construction of a national technological and postal communication system. The CCP’s efforts to penetrate remote localities were reflected in many cadres’ struggles to communicate with locals, manifesting the troubles of implementing national statehood across the former Qing-imperial geo-body. Investigating how communication worked on the spot, we need to ask which language state representatives spoke, and whether new regulations were communicated via reliable (or unreliable) locals speaking the local language. This is, thus, a study about interpreters, intermediaries, and ‘culture brokers’, as well as about language courses and cadre training. My hypothesis is that the CCP’s strategies for dealing with language barriers when establishing communication with the peoples across the PRC and integration them into the national administration were fundamental to China’s empire-to-nation-state transition.

My analysis will use the following sources: newspapers, Party leaders’ public statements, internal Party literature, and directives relevant to the administration of remote localities as well as “local gazetteers” (difangzhi), “cultural and historical materials” (wenshi ziliao), and memoirs and biographies of cadres stationed in peripheral localities—and hopefully archival research and oral history interviews.





中共在宣传工作、政策执行和税收等方面是如何克服语言障碍的?中央与边缘地区之间的沟通情况对国家建构过程有何影响?该研究项目涉及到国家官僚机构和地方社群初次接触、国家建构过程中存在的语言障碍,以及在一个多语言国家建设全国范围的通讯技术和邮政通信系统存在的挑战等具体问题。主要包括如下方面:政府代表讲哪种语言,是否通过讲当地语言的人进行传达,以及此人是否可靠。因此,这也是一项关于通事(也被称为通司、翻译)、中间人和 "文化经纪人" (cultural broker)的研究。


Research Interests

  • History of Modern China
  • Nationalism
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Empire to Nation-State Transitions
  • Borderlands and Frontiers
  • Language in Modern China


  • December 2020 – February 2022
    Assistant Librarian,
    Sinology Library,
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany
  • October 2020 – October 2021
    Research Assistant to Prof. Dr Nicola Spakowski,
    Institute for Chinese Studies,
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany
  • October 2018 – February 2019
    Tutor, "Modern Chinese III",
    Institute for Chinese Studies,
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany
  • June 2018 – September 2019
    Research Assistant to Dr René Trappel,
    Institute for Chinese Studies,
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany
  • October 2017 – August 2019
    Translator (Chinese-German) for Works of Fiction (for the European University Press and West German University Press),
    Prof. Dr Martin Woesler's Team
  • October 2017 – January 2018
    Language Teacher (German and English),
    Abc Dragon Language School,
    Kunming, People's Republic of China
  • February 2017 – August 2017
    Event Co-Organiser,
    International Club, Studierendenwerk Freiburg-Schwarzwald,
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany
  • October 2016 – February 2017
    Department of Germanic Medieval Studies,
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany


  • Since November 2022
    Doctor of Philosophy in Modern History,
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany
  • Since October 2020 – January 2023 (expected completion)
    Master of Arts in Modern Chinese Studies
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany
  • September 2019 – September 2021
    Master of Arts, Chinese Studies
    SOAS University of London, United Kingdom
  • September 2017 – February 2018
    Intensive Chinese Language Course
    Yunnan Normal University, People's Republic of China
  • October 2015 – September 2019
    Bachelor of Arts in German Linguistics and Literary Studies; Minor in Sinology
    Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany

Scholarships and Grants

  • April 2019 – September 2022
    German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)
  • September 2017 – February 2018
    Confucius Institute Scholarship

Seminars and Workshops

  • July 2022
    Schülerakademie China
    Organised by Bildungsnetzwerk China and Bildung & Begabung,
    Co-taught high school students in a two-week history course on 20th-century China
  • August 2016 – September 2016
    Nankai University, People's Republic of China
    Summer School 
    Organised by the Studierendenwerk Freiburg-Schwarzwald and Nankai University
    Participated in classes on Chinese economy, language, and culture