Americans feel anxious about China and its seemingly inexorable growth. People in China feel the same way.
Many Chinese feel they cannot get ahead in their own country, even after attending university. Some try to escape the intense pressure cookers that are Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, going to smaller Chinese cities seeking opportunity. But there, family connections and social networks determine success, says Guo Yuhua, a sociologist at Tsinghua University.
Writing in Caixin Online, Yuhua said decades of funneling opportunity through the political system has choked off social mobility. For people at the bottom of the social strata in china, he calls life “a jungle,” where
those in the lower strata can only win at the expense of their morality. The process is often full of injustices, devoid of faith, and even violent and cruel.
But these problems ripple all the way up. Yuhua argues that the Chinese middle class, such as it is, is stagnant and can achieve no upward mobility. As costs rise for housing and other basic needs, staying in the middle class becomes more difficult. Meanwhile, the elite are trying to leave China, or at least move their assets offshore, over concern about the country’s decaying social fabric.
The root of this uncertainty, paradoxically, comes from China’s quest for stability. That desire for stability means the state prevents people from organizing to do something as basic as get paid for their work. The government’s focus on limiting civil liberties has made China a most uncivil place.
“The more stability is maintained, the more unstable society becomes,” Yuhua writes.
Read more about what that means for China below.