Post‐Mao China: A Two‐Class Urban Society in the Making

Post‐Mao China: A Two‐Class Urban Society in the Making Though the Chinese society under Mao had never come close to one of equal citizenship as advocated in the Marxist doctrine, the urban social structure in the late Mao’s era was relatively homogenous, made up of a great mass of wage workers in well protected state or quasi-state sector and a tiny, perhaps not the most visible, class of privileged cadres. Admired and touted by numerous outside observers at that time, the pre-reform Chinese cities, though bleak and drab, were devoid of beggars and squatters and of any apparent social disparity; indeed, allegedly free of many urban ‘ills’ such as poverty and crimes that were thought to be symptomatic of modem industrial urbanism (Murphey, 1975). What those observers did not know then or write about was that this urban orderliness and stability were achieved largely by immobilizing its population, especially those in the countryside. In essence, cities were closed off to the peasantry by ‘invisible walls’ (Chan, 1994b); poverty was permanently locked in the countryside. The result was a highly segmented society, divided along the occupational line of industrial workers and agricultural workers (the ‘peasants’, to simply follow the official translation) and through the geographical division of urban http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Wiley

Post‐Mao China: A Two‐Class Urban Society in the Making

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Publisher
Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Copyright
Copyright © 1996 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
0309-1317
eISSN
1468-2427
D.O.I.
10.1111/j.1468-2427.1996.tb00305.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Though the Chinese society under Mao had never come close to one of equal citizenship as advocated in the Marxist doctrine, the urban social structure in the late Mao’s era was relatively homogenous, made up of a great mass of wage workers in well protected state or quasi-state sector and a tiny, perhaps not the most visible, class of privileged cadres. Admired and touted by numerous outside observers at that time, the pre-reform Chinese cities, though bleak and drab, were devoid of beggars and squatters and of any apparent social disparity; indeed, allegedly free of many urban ‘ills’ such as poverty and crimes that were thought to be symptomatic of modem industrial urbanism (Murphey, 1975). What those observers did not know then or write about was that this urban orderliness and stability were achieved largely by immobilizing its population, especially those in the countryside. In essence, cities were closed off to the peasantry by ‘invisible walls’ (Chan, 1994b); poverty was permanently locked in the countryside. The result was a highly segmented society, divided along the occupational line of industrial workers and agricultural workers (the ‘peasants’, to simply follow the official translation) and through the geographical division of urban

Journal

International Journal of Urban and Regional ResearchWiley

Published: Mar 1, 1996

References

  • A prism for contemporary capitalism: temporary work as displaced labor as value
    Sparke, Sparke
  • Back to the sweatshop or ahead to the informal sector?
    Waldinger, Waldinger; Lapp, Lapp
  • The passport system in the USSR and changes in Soviet society
    Zaslavsky, Zaslavsky; Luryi, Luryi

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