Sixty years of changes in the structure of social classes and strata in China

China is now in a period of great social change. This change started in the Opium War in 1840 and went through the stages of the Revolution of 1911, the Northern Expedition, the War of Resistance against Japan, the War of Liberation, the Founding of New China, the First Five-Year Plan of socialist industrialization and socialist transformation of agriculture, handcrafts, and capitalist industry and commerce” (—“one change and three transformations”), the People’s Commune, the Cultural Revolution, and reform and opening up. In terms of its social nature, before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China was at the stage of the New Democratic Revolution. The main tasks of the revolution were anti-imperialism; anti-feudalism; changing the colonial, semi-colonial, and semi-feudal conditions of the society; and preparing for the establishment of a socialist society. The founding of the People’s Republic of China marked the establishment of a new democratic society and the beginning of the socialist revolution and socialist construction.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China 60 years ago, Chinese society has been undergoing great changes with the main goal of transforming the poor, backward, and traditional agricultural and rural society into a prosperous and strong industrialized, urbanized, and modernized socialist society. Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, people of all nationalities in the country are gradually realizing the goal of rejuvenating the Chinese nation through arduous struggle and going thr ough the stages of “one change and three transformations,” the people’s commune, the Cultural Revolution, reform and opening up, and the First to Fifteenth Five-Year Plans.

At different stages of social development, the structures of social classes and strata are different. This chapter analyzes the changes in the structure of social classes and social strata in China since the founding of New China 60 years ago.

Ever since the Zhou and Qin dynasties, China had been an agricultural society under the control of the imperial power and the feudal bureaucracy. The structure of social classes and strata was dominated by two main social classes, landlords and peasants. This did not change much for more than 2,000 years. After the Opium War in 1840, China was forced to open her ports to foreign trade and began the Westernization Movement As a result, modem industry

and commerce emerged, the Chinese industrial and commercial bourgeoisie and the working class arose, and China embarked on the road of transformation from an agricultural society to an industrial society. Due to the aggression of foreign imperialism and the feudal rule of the bureaucratic class, modem industry and commerce developed very slowly, and so did the changes in the structure of social classes and strata. Until 1949, China’s agricultural output accormted formore than 70% of the total industrial and agricultural output value and fanners amounted to 89.4% of the total population. China was still an agricultural society.

The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. Over the past 60 years, the Chinese people of all nationalities have made great efforts to cany out the socialist revolution and socialist construction and made brilliant achievements, which have brought about historical changes in the social and economic landscape. China’s social structure has also undergone major changes not seen in thousands of years. The following five historical stages outline the evolution of China’s structure of classes and strata.

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