Events by Day

Chinese Socialism
10 April 2019
On April 10, 2019, at 6.30 pm, Pierre Miège will  deliver a lecture "The Transition from the Work Unit (Danwei) System to Market Mechanisms in China: A Re-Examination of the Chinese Experience with Urban Socialism and Post-Socialism".

After its taking up of power in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party has attempted a large-scale makeover of urban society, which has greatly affected the lives of its citizens. In particular, the new authorities have used factories and other workplaces as the support to build a socialist society and a more comprehensive social welfare system. Consequently, almost all social policies were administered not by a range of bureaucratic organizations at national and local levels, like housing bureaus or health departments, but through the workplaces, called "work units" (in Chinese danwei). Surveillance, mobilization, and political education were similarly carried out by each work unit. As labor mobility had been virtually eliminated, this "work unit system" encouraged a new collectivistic culture.

It was only in the late 1990s that this "work unit system" was dismantled as market mechanisms replaced the previous planned economy, leading to wide-ranging social transformations. Among them, the expansion of rural to urban migrations and the rapid development of a housing market not only transformed the physicality of Chinese cities, but also allowed urbanites to mobilize new resources and to constitute private spaces, causing the weakening of socialist collectivist norms and the emergence of new attitudes towards individualization.

The lecture would be organized around several topics: (1) rural migration to the cities and the constitution of a dual-citizenship, (2) the new housing market and the creation of a society of "property-owners", (3) the difficulties to build a welfare system, and (4) finally the emergence of private life and individualization.

The lecture will be conducted in English with simultaneous translation into Ukrainian.

Dr. Pierre Miège has been an Associate Professor of Sociology at Beijing Normal University (China) since 2007. For his PhD, he studied the social organization of Chinese cities up to the early 2000s, and particularly the central role of workplaces in arranging the relationship between society and the party state. From 2005, Pierre also engaged in research of high-risk behavior and the HIV epidemic, especially among same-sex attracted men. Currently, he is building on the knowledge collected through these different projects to question the transformation of social norms and the emergence of the individual in a changing urban society in China.