LRP #11 – Class: The New Dirty Word

Chairman Mao urged the Chinese people to never forget class struggle. But they not only forgot, they stopped using the word altogether. Louisa and Graeme talk to Wanning Sun from the University of Technology, Sydney, and Yingjie Guo from Sydney University about how class has become a dirty word in China. So much for the workers, peasants, and soldiers; in today’s China, everyone wants to be middle class, even the new rich. Class anxiety is rife as class mobility is ever harder as traditional routes of advancement shut down. And class is at the heart of one of the Communist party’s biggest conundrums: how to square its official Marxist-Leninist ideology with the consumption-centered society that’s emerging on the ground. Will President Xi Jinping, who often finds himself compared to Mao, ever be tempted to revisit this part of the Chairman’s legacy?

Photo Credits: Shanghai Shopping Scene, by Chinainfocenter (Flickr)

Listen to all past episodes.

Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim
Graeme Smith and Louisa Lim

Graeme Smith is a China studies academic with the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. Louisa Lim is a former China correspondent for the BBC and NPR, now with the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University. Follow them @limlouisa and @GraemeKSmith.