A talk by Martin King Whyte, the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Sociology, Emeritus, at Harvard University, and senior nonresident scholar at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University. Organized by the Center for the Study of Contemporary China.
Friday Jan. 15, 9:30-11am (China time)
Thursday Jan. 14, 8:30pm-10pm (EST)
Zoom ID: 910 5163 5028
As the People’s Republic of China has pursued economic development over the decades, a central dilemma concerns how to treat its massive rural population, and the extent to which its rural-origin citizens can contribute to, and benefit from, economic growth. In different time periods, there have been dramatic changes in the nature of rural-urban relations, often with paradoxical consequences for prospects for economic growth. The talk will discuss five historical phases in rural-urban relations and their implications for economic development:
Pre-revolution: A very unequal social order, but definitely not a feudal society.
1949 to 1958: Relatively free migration and ample opportunities for rural migrants.
1958 to 1978: The paradox of Mao Zedong presiding over the imposition of “socialist serfdom,” creating a growing rural-urban gap, but with some positive trends.
1978 to around 2010: Large-scale urban migration combined with continuation of hukou-based discrimination creates the central engine of China’s economic boom.
After 2010: Decades of systematic discrimination against China’s rural-origin majority leaves a human capital deficit that is now a major obstacle to China escaping the “middle income trap.”
The talk will conclude with discussion of ongoing efforts to overcome the obstacles to growth stemming from hukou-based discrimination, and what more needs to be done.
Martin King Whyte is John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Sociology, Emeritus, at Harvard University, and senior nonresident scholar at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, George Washington University. He has a B.A. with a major in physics from Cornell University and an M.A. in Russian studies and a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard. Prior to returning to Harvard as a faculty member, he taught at the University of Michigan and at George Washington University. He specializes in the study of grassroots social organization and social change in the People’s Republic of China. His most recent books are “One Country, Two Societies: Rural-Urban Inequality in Contemporary China” (editor, Harvard University Press, 2010) and “Myth of the Social Volcano: Perceptions of Inequality and Distributive Injustice in Contemporary China” (Stanford University Press, 2010).