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 Maoâs 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 âillsâ 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 âinvisible wallsâ (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 âpeasantsâ, to simply follow the official translation) and through the geographical division of urban
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1996
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