Popular Perceptions of Distributive Justice in China: Local and Regional Variations


Whyte, Martin K. 2006. “Popular Perceptions of Distributive Justice in China: Local and Regional Variations.” Creating Wealth and Poverty in Contemporary China. Yale University. Copy at http://www.tinyurl.com/y2pbslhy

Date Presented:

Jan 6, 2006


The reform era launched in 1978 has produced dramatic changes in Chinese society. The dismantling of centrally planned socialism and the transformation of China into a market–based economy have fundamentally altered that society's social order. In many respects China's reforms have been extraordinarily successful, with sustained high levels of economic growth, rising income levels and consumption patterns, growing integration of China into the global economy, massive infusions of foreign investment, and sharp reductions in the proportion of the population that is desperately poor. However, this transformation from a socialist to a market–based society has also had more divisive and less savory consequences. Older Chinese who had learned how to survive by playing by the rules of Mao–era socialism had to adapt to a fundamentally changed distribution system in which there were plenty of losers alongside the many winners. Chinese society changed from being a society with relatively modest income disparities to one with large and in some periods escalating gaps between the rich and the poor. Many who felt they should be honored for their contributions to building socialism found themselves unemployed, while suspicion was rife that many of China's new millionaires were the beneficiaries of corruption and official favoritism. In recent years China has been rocked by a rising tide of public protests by peasants, workers, and others, with unfairness of the current social order repeatedly challenged.


Last updated on 03/21/2015