This timely and important collection of original essays analyzes China’s foremost social cleavage: the rural–urban gap. It is now clear that the Chinese communist revolution, though professing dedication to an egalitarian society, in practice created a rural order akin to serfdom, in which 80 percent of the population was effectively bound to the land. China is still struggling with that legacy. The reforms of 1978 changed basic aspects of economic and social life in China’s villages and cities and altered the nature of the rural-urban relationship. But some important institutions and practices have changed only marginally or not at all, and China is still sharply divided into rural and urban castes with different rights and opportunities in life, resulting in growing social tensions.
The contributors, many of whom conducted extensive fieldwork, examine the historical background of rural–urban relations; the size and trend in the income gap between rural and urban residents in recent years; aspects of inequality apart from income (access to education and medical care, the digital divide, housing quality and location); experiences of discrimination, particularly among urban migrants; and conceptual and policy debates in China regarding the status and treatment of rural residents and urban migrants.