ABSTRACT

Some of the earliest reforms associated with institutional changes in postMao China were manifested in the education system. One of the major policy changes in 1977, only one year after Mao Zedong’s death, was the resumption of the national examination for college admission, historically a primary gatekeeper of social mobility in China’s social stratification system. The stigma associated with education in the Cultural Revolution disappeared overnight, and long queuing lines appeared at the doors of bookstores, libraries, and schools. Since then, the role of education has become salient in all spheres of political, economic, and social life. Beginning in the 1980s, new state policies have made education one of the most important criteria in cadre recruitment and promotion (Xu and Zhang 1992). Educational credentials help individuals open doors to prestigious jobs and work organizations.