Table of Contents

Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China

Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China

Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series

Edited by Yingjie Guo

This comprehensive, interdisciplinary Handbook illustrates the patterns of class transformation in China since 1949, situating them in their historical context. Presenting detailed case studies of social stratification and class formation in a wide range of settings, the expert contributors provide valuable insights into multiple aspects of China’s economy, polity and society. The Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China explores largely neglected contemporary topics such as women’s social mobility in relation to marriage and the high school entrance exam as a class sorter, placing it at the forefront of progressive literature.

Chapter 3: Class and inequality in the post-Mao era

Li Chunling

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian geography, asian politics and policy, asian social policy, geography, asian geography, politics and public policy, asian politics, social policy and sociology, social policy in emerging countries


The economic reforms that commenced in 1978 gave rise to dramatic changes in China’s social system of hierarchy and stratification. In the ensuing 30 years or so, rising income inequality further widened the gap in the social and economic status of different social groups. New classes (such as the new rich and the middle classes) gradually took shape, while the old classes (such as the workers and peasants) have been transformed to a large extent. The systems and patterns of social stratification and social mobility have gone through more fundamental changes in comparison with the pre-reform era, and it is these changes that have led to the emergence of a new system of social stratification and class structure in China. Such a dramatic transformation has expectedly caught the attention of researchers and scholars, and it is little wonder the transformation is one of the hot topics not only in Chinese academia but also among government policy-makers and the general public. Of particular interest in the theoretical debate have been the rapid social differentiation of groups and the widening income gap resulting from China’s economic reforms. These debates are influencing the direction of not just future economic reforms but also the CCP’s ideological reforms.

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