China Social Structure

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Essay Title: “Social Stratification and Class Structure in post-reform China”

Class Module Code: CH3004

Student Name: Ross Fehily

Student Number: 107621124

Submission Date: 8 December

Word Count:

This essay will focus in on and look at contemporary China’s social stratification and social class make up and structure during the post reform era, (post 1978) and what affects it has on today’s social make up. It will outline the different class’s that make up contemporary China’s social structure and give a detailed outlook and perspective on each class, and show what change they have undergone since the opening of China’s economy in the late 1970’s and introduction to a market based economy. The greatest outcome will see how the transfer of the class’s from a socialist dictated economy and society during the Mao era, rapidly changed and fused into the modern market based economy of today’s China. This essay should also indict who has benefited most from such a quick and bold move to a market economy, and those who have lost out and not been so lucky as others due to the open door policy of China which was introduced in 1978, by then Chinese Premier Deng Xiao Ping (邓小平). This essay will take each class individually and contrast them to other class’s, both those that existed during the Maoist era of pre-1978 and the class’s that have emerged as a result of the economic reforms pursued by China since the opening of its economy and internal reforms where introduced. Lastly it will look at if China’s communist party has steered away from the founding ethics of a socialist economy to that of a capitalist one due to social class division and what effect this can have on China in the near distant future.

Firstly looking at the Peasant class, one of the three original social class’s during the Maoist period of 1949-1978, (the other two being the working class and the cadre class). The peasant class, along with the working class during Maoist China were dubbed the proletariat class, in comparison the relatively small but evident cadre class. The rural-urban divide has always been existent in Chinese society, largely based on economic and geographical contributions. However throughout the Maoist era, peasant’s standard of living; to a certain extent were raised. With the abolishment of savage landlords which persisted during the imperial and republican times and the introduction of many yet simple beneficiaries to rural areas of China, peasant’s standard of living from 1949-1976, actually rose significantly, ‘On the one hand, standards of living can be seen as improved due to the absence of warlords, bandits, landlord, and local tyrants. The government invested a lot in agriculture, especially water conservancy, irrigation works, chemical fertilizers, and agricultural machinery….The life expectancy of peasants increased from less than forty years before 1949 to more than sixty years in the 1970s’[1] Simple improvements in education and health, the fundamentals of any society to prosper were drastically improved by the so called “barefoot” teachers and doctors. However, prosperity was limited due to collectivisation of all the land available for agriculture, restricting peasant’s income and also led to the disaster of the Great Leap Forward campaign, which saw many peasants suffer in comparison to their urban counterparts. Restrictive movements of people from rural to urban also led to a stagnated peasant society, with the introduction of the household registration system (户口) , ensuring that peasants and their families never had the chance to seek a more prosperous life in the cities or enjoy the benefits of those of urban household with hukou registration. The reforms of 1978 first and profoundly had an immediate effect on rural areas. This came with the abolishment of the commune system, establishment of free market practice in the countryside with agricultural products and the thriving success of the...
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