Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China
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Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China

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.
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Chapter 2: The Cultural Revolution: class, culture and revolution

Mobo Gao


The Cultural Revolution started nearly half a century ago in 1966; it still remains a controversial topic not only in terms of its consequences, impact and significance but also in terms of why and how it happened. In fact, it is even controversial in terms of how long it lasted. Some (Badiou 2005; Russo 2005) argue that it lasted only for three years, whereas the post-Mao Chinese government, the Chinese intellectual and political elite and some Western scholars (MacFarquhar and Schoenhals 2006) maintain that it lasted ten years. The post-Mao Chinese official discourse also frequently refers to the Cultural Revolution as shi nian haojie (ten years of disaster or holocaust), a version endorsed by the majority of the Chinese intellectual elite (Gao 2006), who have been continuously turning out memoirs, biographies and stories to condemn Mao Zedong personally and the Mao era in general (Gao 1995). At the same time, no dissenting voice has been allowed by the Chinese government in the interpretation and understanding of the so-called Cultural Revolution period. For the post-Mao regime, one can condemn institutional, personal and cultural destructions during the Cultural Revolution period; but no discussion is allowed about whether there were institutional constructions, reforms, and renovations. There was no regional diversity and no difference between the rural and urban sectors, and, above all, different attitudes and different actions motivated by different classes of people are a non-issue. There are more dissenting voices among academics, especially outside of China’s official discourse.

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