Josephine Smart - Professor of Anthropology, University of Calgary
There are many far reaching consequences of the economic reform initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Many are intended outcomes such as the intensification of rural industrialization and urbanization in selected coastal regions designated as Special Economic Zones, and the massive internal labour migration involving over 100 million people that supplies the much needed labour to work on public projects and factories in these rapidly developing regions within the country. The Pearl River Delta of Guangdong is a prime example of the rapid economic development in post-1978 China driven by foreign direct investment as well as domestic investment. Other outcomes are either unintended or unanticipated; one of these is the emergence of class formation and class-based inequality. This paper will drawn upon over 10 years of ethnographic research in the Pearl River Delta region to address the processes of class formation in post-1978 Guangdong, and to raise some questions about the political meanings of class in socialist China today and how it may contribute to the future stability or instability of Chinese society.