Work and Inequality in Urban China

By Yanjie Bian

Subjects: Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Work and Organizations
Paperback : 9780791418024, 286 pages, January 1994
Hardcover : 9780791418017, 286 pages, January 1994

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Table of contents

Figures and Tables


1. Structural Segmentation and Social Stratification
Structural Segmentation as a Perspective of Stratification
Workplace Segmentation in Pre-Reform China
Labor, Management, and Incentives in Pre-Reform China
Segmentation in a Planned Commodity Economy
Sources of Data and Related Issues
Organization of the Book

2. Structures and Functions of Work Organizations
The Ownership Structure
The Bureaucratic Structure
The Distribution of Resources and Incentives
Socio-Political Functions of the Workplace

3. Urban Employment: Policies and Practices
Manpower Policies in Mao's Era: 1949-1976
Labor Policies in the Era of Market Reform: After1976
Direct State Assignments
Indirect State Assignments
Direct Individual Application

4. The Chinese Version of Status Attainment
Status Inheritance and the Father's Work Unit
Educational Achievement versus Political Virtue
Modeling Status Attainment in the Chinese Context
Entering the State Sector
Entering a Higher-Ranked Work Unit
Getting an Occupation

5. Guanxi and Social Resources in Job Searchesand Job Mobility
Guanxi as Social Networks and SocialResources
Guanxi and First Job
Guanxi and Job Mobility

6. Party Membership
The Road to the Communist Party in China
Behind the Scene: Social Factors in Party Recruitment
Party Membership Attainment: Hypotheses
Analysis of Party Membership in Tianjin
Party Membership as a Path to Power Elites

7. Wages
Types of Wages
Wage Reforms and Corresponding Salary Systems
Salary Standards
The Bonus System
Determinants of Salary and Bonus Distributions:Hypotheses
Wage Differentials: Aggregate Data
Wage Attainment: Individual Data

8. Collective Consumption
Labor Insurance and Benefits
Collective Welfare Programs and Subsidies
Housing and Community Resources

9. Segmentation and Inequality: Conclusions and Discussion
Structural Segmentation in Market and Planned Systems
Market Reforms and Social Inequalities in China

Appendix A: Survey of Work and Occupations of Tianjin Urban Residents
Appendix B: List of Personal Interviews
Appendix C: Measurement of Key Status Variables Used in Tables 2.2 to 8.4






This book offers a systematic analysis of the impact of work organization on the social stratification of individuals in urban China. It explains why economic and labor market segmentation is possible and necessary in state socialism at a certain stage of its development, as in market capitalism, and how important one's work unit or danwei is to the life of socialist workers in Chinese cities.

Based on survey data, personal interviews, and official statistics, the author shows that structural allocation, status inheritance, educational achievement, political virtue, and interpersonal connections (guanxi) interplay in determining an individual's opportunities for entering and moving into a desirable place to work, for obtaining Communist party membership and an elite class status, and for receiving material compensation such as wages, bonuses, fringe benefits, housing, and home locations.

Yanjie Bian is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.


"The work under review provides systematic evidence of the importance of organizational location in the system of rewards in one Chinese city and invites us to think more deeply about the sources of segmentation phenomena....The resulting book is a wide-ranging and informative discussion of the dynamics of stratification in urban China, set in a comparative context. It should be of interest not only to those interested in Chinese society, but also to any student of comparative stratification." — Martin King Whyte, Contemporary Sociology

"In Work and Inequality in Urban China, Yanjie Bian has filled an important gap in the study of work in urban China. Although others have done research and published in this area, this particular study offers a great deal of previously unavailable information. Bian's is a richly detailed and systematic study of the system of work in China and the role of work in sustaining and even fostering inequality in China." — Nancy E. Riley, Work and Occupation

"By addressing the central position of the workplace in urban inequality with both theoretical rigor and empirical support, Bian has no doubt produced a major work that contributes significantly to the understanding of the patterns and mechanisms of social inequality under socialism. It provides not only a lot of information on and insight into China's urban workplace organization, but, more importantly, also an admirable approach—that of treating social inequality in China from the aspect of its organizations. This is a book that every student of social stratification in socialist societies, especially in China, should read. And it will affect thinking and work in the areas of social structure and social inequality in China for years to come." — Feng Wang, China Review International

"A distinctive contribution...this book must be praised as empirically rich, analytically clear, and theoretically informed. Anyone concerned with coming to a more comprehensive and systematic understanding of the institutional structures and structural inequalities of urban China must read it." — Tak Chuen Luk, American Journal of Sociology

"This is a very important sociological work. It is based on a massive survey data which is expensive and difficult to come by. It brings out the actual workings of the Chinese way of life and adds a great deal to the sociological understanding of Chinese society." — Yung-mei Tsai, Texas Tech University