Measurement and comparative study of political attitude of the new social class Based on survey data from six provinces and cities

Zhang Haidong and Deng Meiling

Since the reform and opening up, with continuous deepening of economic system reform and the increasing degree of marketization, a number of new economic and social organizations have emerged in our society, and these "outside the system” sectors have absorbed a large number of employees and cultivated a large new social group. This article attempts to systematically answer the question of differences in political attitudes between the new social class and other social classes as well as between different groups within the new social class through the study of political attitudes of the new social class. On the one hand, a better understanding of the extent to which “inside the system” factors influence the political attitudes of members of society is obtained by comparing the differences in political attitudes between the new social class and other social classes, in particular between the new social class and the “inside the system” middle class of society; on the other hand, the extent to which class differences and occupational characteristics influence the political attitudes of members of society is obtained by comparing the differences in the political attimdes of different groups within the new social class.

The new social class and political attitudes

Defining the new social class

The concept of the New Social Class first appeared in 2001, specifically referring to entrepreneurs and technicians in private science and technology enterprises, management and technical personnel employed by foreign-owned enterprises, self-employed individuals, private business owners, employees of intermediary organizations, and freelancers (Jiang, 2006: 286). The Opinions on the Consolidation and Strengthening of the United Front for the New Stage of the New Century, adopted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 2006, states that "the new social class is composed mainly of members of the non-public economy and intellectuals who freely choose their jobs and are concentrated in new economic and social organizations”. Among this population, "members of the non-public economy” includes groups in the non-public economy such as individual industrial and commercial households, private enterprise owners and natural person shareholders in joint-stock companies, while "intellectuals who freely choose their job” includes those whose organizations and personnel relations are affiliated with non-state institutions and personnel exchange centers; these intellectuals do not participate in income distribution “inside the system” and freely choose their professions and management on the basis of their knowledge, skills, expertise and will. In recent years, with the development of the market economy and changes in the social structure, the new social class has grown in size and its meanings have gradually changed. In 2013, President Xi Jinping pointed out in his speech at the first session of the Twelfth National People’s Congress that “all non-public persons and others in the new social class should give full play to the spirit of creation and entrepreneurship, give back to society, benefit the people and be qualified builders of the cause of socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. This statement highlights the importance of non-public personnel in the new social stratum and makes the new social stratum conceptually different from the original, thus creating a distinction between the broad sense and narrow sense of the term. The new social class in a broad sense includes non-public personnel and other new social classes, while the new social class in a narrow sense does not include members of the non-public economy.

Since the emergence of the concept of a new social class, its meanings have also been explored by scholars in related theoretical studies. For example, some scholars have specifically classified the six groups of the aforementioned new social classes into three major classes: the private class, the intellectual class and the managerial class (Song, 2005). In addition, there are scholars who define the new social class as the "outside the system” economic, managerial and technological elite (Qi, 2007). It can be said that the new social class is different from the concept of class in the sociological sense. In a broad sense, it refers to new social groups “outside the system”; in a narrow sense, it refers specifically to four occupational groups (management and technical staff of private and foreign-owned enterprises, social organization workers, freelancers and new media workers). From a sociological point of view, the various groups included in the new social class do not belong to the same class, but rather the term refers to “outside the system” occupational groups that have emerged in the process of social structural change. Occupation is the basis of social stratification, and it can be seen from the composition of the new social class that the vast majority of the new social class comprises professional and technical personnel, who occupy an intermediate position in the social stratification field; it is in this sense that the new social class is roughly equivalent to the intermediate stratum, or the “outside the system intermediate stratum”, in terms of class position. In this article, we use the concept of a new social class in a broad sense, which includes both members of the non-public economy and the freelance intellectuals.

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