Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Yingjie Guo
Chapter 15: The growth of Chinese professionals: a new middle class in the making
The term ‘professional’ describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform the associated role. In a narrow sense, certain occupations with expertise such as carpenters, electricians, masons, painters, and plumbers, which require the completion of an apprenticeship, are generally regarded as trades or crafts, but not professions. In the field of social stratification, the term ‘professional’ refers to a particular social stratum or class of well-educated workers who are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work with considerable autonomy. The professionals constitute an important part of the new middle classes emerging since World War II in North America and Western Europe (Burnham 1941; Galbraith 1968; Chen, M. and Goodman 2013), alongside the expanding higher education systems in these two regions and their transformation into service-oriented economies (Mills 1956; Archer and Blau 1993). The professionals, together with managers, play an important role in society by serving the public interest. They have thus exerted significant impact on social and political change in the post-industrial era. The growth of professionals under socialism had been limited for a long time, not only because the redistributive economy was built mainly upon heavy industries while manufacturing workers were seen as the backbone of the regime, but also because higher education was still underdeveloped in post-war Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and China.
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