Cover of State-Sponsored Inequality by Shuang Chen
State-Sponsored Inequality
The Banner System and Social Stratification in Northeast China
Shuang Chen

April 2017
368 pages.
$65.00

Cloth ISBN: 9780804799034

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This book explores the social economic processes of inequality in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century rural China. Drawing on uniquely rich source materials, Shuang Chen provides a comprehensive view of the creation of a social hierarchy wherein the state classified immigrants to the Chinese county of Shuangcheng into distinct categories, each associated with different land entitlements. The resulting patterns of wealth stratification and social hierarchy were then simultaneously challenged and reinforced by local people.

The tensions built into the unequal land entitlements shaped the identities of immigrant groups, and this social hierarchy persisted even after the institution of unequal state entitlements was removed. State-Sponsored Inequality offers an in-depth understanding of the key factors that contribute to social stratification in agrarian societies. Moreover, it sheds light on the many parallels between the stratification system in nineteenth-century Shuangcheng and structural inequality in contemporary China.

About the author

Shuang Chen is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Iowa.

"Shuang Chen's study of landownership in north China is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on social inequality, and part of a 'big data' revolution in social history. Anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and historians will find much of interest in this book."

—James L. Watson, Harvard University

"Shuang Chen uses rich demographic data to raise an original question of continuities from the Banner registration system to the rural hukou system of contemporary China, and refreshingly suspends the usual narrative of the discontinuities of 1912 and 1949."

—Pamela Kyle Crossley, Dartmouth College

"A rare and highly original contribution to the studies of community formation and social stratification in human history. Tracing a community from its very beginning, Shuang Chen offers deep theoretical insights and lucid storytelling to analyze a key social experiment in Chinese history. This book is destined to become a new reference for understanding Chinese society, past and present."

—Wang Feng, University of California, Irvine