Socio-economic Status of Workers in State-owned Enterprises During China’s Reforms


This presentation investigates China’s working class and its historical change in social standing. It argues that during the Maoist period there was an illusion that a new society was established, in which the working class became the master of the society with political and economic power. Such an illusion was ended in post-Mao economic reforms which aimed to improve economic efficiency at the expense of economic equality. Such a legitimate motivation changed Chinese society to such an extent that state capitalism has replaced socialism and the Marxian proletariat returned to China’s social structure.

Such insight has been achieved by researching a case study on an SOE- E Group Corporation (EGC), which is a central government-controlled enterprise in Sichuan Province, China. Statistically speaking, what happened in EGC is not an isolated case despite the fact that workers employed by EGC have always been in a better position in the Chinese working class since Mao’s time.

The conclusion reached by this study is that since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms to improve economic efficiency, China’s class structure has gone backwards. The implication is that China is an economy of state capitalism and the Chinese working class has returned to their pre-1949 position in society.

Author Information
Shan Huang, King's College London, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: IICAH2023
Stream: Political Science

The full paper is not available for this title

Video Presentation

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon