Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance

Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance

Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance

Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance

Synopsis

This introduction to Chinese society uses the themes of resistance and protest to explore the complexity of life in contemporary China. The book draws on perspectives from sociology, anthropology, psychology, history and political science and covers a broad range of issues including women, labour, ethnic conflict and suicide. This new revised edition adds three new chapters on Falun Gong, Christianity and land struggles and provides a comprehensive resource for both undergraduates and specialists in the field and encourages the reader to challenge conventional images of contemporary Chinese society.

Excerpt

Reform and resisitance in contemporary China

Elizabeth J. Perry and Mark Selden

In the closing decades of the twentieth century, China defied the best predictions of development economists and Sinologists alike in compiling a stunning record of economic growth. This was accomplished in the face of formidable obstacles including inefficient state enterprises, ambiguous property rights, irrational prices, primitive transportation, and outmoded banking and securities facilities. Social and political obstacles, including instability born of the failures of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, deep political divisions, a legacy of rural poverty and low levels of education, constituted equally formidable challenges. Yet, whether measured in per capita GDP, exports, income or induction of foreign capital, China's sustained double-digit growth and rising per capita income from the late 1970s into the 1990s, was the world's envy. As a result, China was able to join a select group, including the East Asian Newly Industrializing Economies, which significantly improved their position in the world economy. And it did so at the very time when the former socialist economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were in ruins, even continuing its advance (albeit at a slower pace) into the twenty-first century while many other economies, including several high-flying East Asian economies, stumbled or languished.

These achievements were not the product of some clear blueprint designed at the outset; rather, Chinese leaders aptly liken their approach to economic reform to 'crossing a river by groping for stones'-or improvising as they go. While economists have marvelled at the growth achievements this flexible strategy has produced, rather less scholarly concern has been devoted to the social and political consequences and 'externalities' of the reform agenda, including galloping spatial and class inequality and environmental destruction, the explosive growth of a migrant labour underclass, mounting ethnic unrest, and loss of security and jobs for many state sector employees. Still less attention has been drawn to the conflicts that reform engendered, and the myriad arenas of resistance that have been its byproduct at every stage. The emerging patterns of conflict and resistance should not simply be understood as responses to reform initiatives or the playing out of historic antagonisms; they have also stimulated and shaped significant dimensions of the reform programme itself.

China's reform is a multifaceted process whose key elements include greater latitude for market, mobility, modernization and internationalization. Viewed

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