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 14: Transformation of China’s socialist brick: reproduction and circulation of ordinary cadres

Peng Lu


‘I am a socialist brick, and I can be moved anywhere if necessary.’ This is a statement that Chinese often heard from cadres during the Mao era. In the ideology of China’s communist revolutionaries, to build a socialist mansion requires many bricks, and the cadres within the ranks of the Chinese Party-state should be the most solid ones that could serve as cornerstones. In the post-Mao era, however, as the function and appearance of the socialist mansion change, so have the role of cadres and the recipe for manufacturing the cornerstones supporting the Party-state. The subject of this chapter is ordinary cadres (putong ganbu) as differentiated from top leading cadres (gaoji lingdao ganbu) and senior cadres (lingdao ganbu), or the rank and file of the Party-state’s cadre corps, particularly those below the fifth rank in the Party-state’s cadre hierarchy, which was outlined in Chapter 13. As noted in the previous chapter, Chinese cadres have rarely been analyzed from the perspective of class, and it is subject to debate which cadres belong to the ruling class within the Chinese Party-state and which belong to the middle classes. In both the English- and the Chinese-language literature, undifferentiated cadres, especially ordinary cadres, are usually classified as middle classes on the basis of income, wealth, educational credentials, occupation, and so on.

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