Working Paper
Rising Wealth Inequality and Changing Social Structure in Rural China, 1988-95

The paper finds that a new system of social stratification is emerging in rural China in the wake of economic reforms, one that is far less equal than what preceded it. As part of this trend, wealth inequality has increased markedly in a short period of time. A relatively equal distribution of land has prevented further inequality and blocked the rise of a landed elite. However, what has emerged is a 'worker elite', mainly concentrated in cooperative enterprises in the coastal provinces and in richer provinces. Also, both cadres and officials, on the one hand, and owners and managers of enterprises, on the other hand, have measurably improved their position in the social structure. Membership in the communist party per se and level of education are less influential than before in determining one's social position.