chapter  18
15 Pages

State-Society Relationships in the Post-Utopian Age

WithChristopher J. Smith

This chapter investigates some of the political dimensions of the reform era, focusing on changes that have been introduced, and considers some of the choices that are in store for China's new leaders. It looks at changes in the way class and class conflict have been de-emphasized and the fluid nature of state-society relationships. In the Maoist era much was made of the notion of egalitarianism, but it was primarily an economic concept; in the political realm egalitarianism was rarely in evidence. In the reform era class labels have been removed for most designated "class enemies," and the legal system no longer recognizes class as a consideration in determining guilt and in sentencing. The major exception is the counterrevolutionary label: The state has power to incarcerate people who cause, or are accused of causing, political disturbances. During the Cultural Revolution, Maoists altered the theory by interpreting bureaucratic state socialism as a new source of class conflict.