REVIEWS Yanjie Bian. Work and Inequality in Urban China. State University of New York Press, 1994. 279 pages. Hardcover $49.50, Paperback $16.95. "Which work unit (danwei) are you from?" was, and still is, one of the most commonly asked questions among first acquaintances in China. The answer to this question conveys the enormously critical information by which one's status is judged. The workplace, or danwei, tells much more about a person's status in hierarchical urban socialist Chinese society than what the person actually does in the workplace. A gatekeeper at the municipal Communist Party Committee office often enjoys a higher status than a Party secretary in a factory under a neighborhood committee. The gatekeeper has a better chance in getting public housing, since the municipal Party Committee is much more likely to build its own housing than the street-level factory; and the gatekeeper has more access to important connections to get help in employment, job mobility, and promotion, not necessarily for himself, but for his relatives and friends. The workplace, therefore, occu- pies a center position in understanding inequalities in political participation, income, benefits, and consumption in urban China under socialism. Examining the structure of urban Chinese work
China Review International – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Mar 30, 1994
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