Children of the Cultural Revolution: Family Life and Political Behavior in Mao's China

By Xiaowei Zang | Go to book overview

4
CLASS AND CASTE

I have shown in Chapter 3 that stratification by occupational rank supplanted the old class system as a good guide to the socioeconomic position of individual Chinese in Mao's China. However, "class" designations and political role labels persisted as an officially structured carryover from the pre-1949 social relationships. Richard Kraus stresses that these two social hierarchies were abstractions and could not capture the rich complexity of social inequality in Mao's China. There was inequality in sex, age, geographical region, etc. Nevertheless, these two hierarchies were the most important dimensions of social stratification, constituting a key enabling us to understand the web of social relationships before and during the Cultural Revolution. 1

Richard Kraus further points out that these two modes of stratification did not exist in isolation. They intertwined with each other and formed an important historical context within which a new set of social relationships emerged in China. 2 The most crucial aspect of the class system was its universal characteristic. People of both the upper and lower castes were represented within each class as defined by income, prestige and status. In other words, every Chinese was described simultaneously by both the caste hierarchy and class system. 3

It is necessary to point out that these two scales measure different qualities. A person's position in one social hierarchy might not accord with his or her position as measured by the other. Before 1966, a person with a lower caste origin was not necessarily a member of the lower class. In fact, a substantial proportion of the upper and middle classes in the Mao era came from families with lower caste status. Several important historical factors contributed to the intertwining of class and caste.


The Communist Revolution

The interaction of class and caste in the Mao era occurred mainly because of the pre-1949 Communist Revolution. In essence, the Chinese Communist Movement was a peasant rebellion under the leadership of revolutionary

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Children of the Cultural Revolution: Family Life and Political Behavior in Mao's China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 10
  • 2 - The Political Status System 13
  • Notes 20
  • 3 - Job Ranking and Social Classes 23
  • Notes 38
  • 4 - Class and Caste 41
  • Notes 47
  • 5 - Family Life and Political Behavior in Pre-1966 China 49
  • Notes 61
  • 6 - The Upper Caste Middle Class 63
  • Notes 80
  • 7 - The Upper Caste Lower Class 82
  • Notes 90
  • 8 - The Lower Caste 91
  • Notes 102
  • 9 - Class, Caste and Political Behavior in China 103
  • Notes 110
  • Appendix Notes on Methodology 112
  • Notes 118
  • Bibliography 119
  • Index 129
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