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REVIEWS Yanjie Bian. Work and Inequality in Urban China. State University ofNew York Press, 1994. 279 pages. Hardcover $49.50, Paperback $16.95. "Which work unit (danwei) are you from?" was, and still is, one of the most commonly asked questions among first acquaintances in China. The answer to this question conveys the enormously critical information bywhich one's status is judged. The workplace, or danwei, tells much more about a person's status in hierarchical urban socialist Chinese society than what the person actually does in the workplace. A gatekeeper at the municipal Communist Party Committee office often enjoys a higher status than a Party secretary in a factory under a neighborhood committee. The gatekeeper has a better chance in getting public housing, since the municipal Party Committee is much more likely to build its own housing than the street-level factory; and the gatekeeper has more access to important connections to get help in employment, job mobility, and promotion, not necessarily for himself, but for his relatives and friends. The workplace, therefore, occupies a center position in understanding inequalities in political participation, income , benefits, and consumption in urban China under socialism. Examining the structure of urban Chinese work organizations and the inequalities associated wiAi these organizations is the central theme ofYanjie Bian's book. Structural segmentation is the concept the author uses in arguing for the theoretical significance oftreating the workplace as a source ofsocial stratification . In the first chapter, the author discusses the concept of segmentation in understanding social and economic stratification in both capitalist market economies and, more importantiy, socialist planned economies. Structural segmentation plays a vital role, through the institution of the workplace, in shaping stratification patterns under socialism. However, both Aie agents and the motives of such segmentation are completely different under the two different economic and political systems. In a market economy, segmentation is driven by the profit and monopoly motives of companies, whereas in a socialist planned economy, it is created by three kinds of government interests: "the ideological interests of the Communist Party in maintaining state ownership over the means of production and consumption, the national interests of state planners in the© 1994 by University country's economic development, which favor certain industries, and the control ofHawai'i Pressinterests of government bureaucracies in hoarding resources and incentives under their jurisdictions" (p. 209). 74 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 The auAior tìien devotes one chapter (chapter 2) to the structure and functions of the work organizations. The Chinese urban workplace, the auAior argues, is more than a place where one performs work and derives income. Each workplace is like a whole society on its own, where a person lives an entire lifetime. It is an administrative unit, carrying out administrative initiatives and representing individuals; a political vehicle where political election is organized and political party memberships generated; and a welfare organization that provides labor insurance , welfare benefits, housing, and collective welfare programs. Each workplace locates itself in the proper space in the hierarchy of the Chinese urban structure . The information and insights contained in diis chapter are highly useful for anyone who seeks to learn about the ins and outs of Aie Chinese urban workplace . In the next six chapters, Bian examines in a systematic way how the Chinese urban workplace carries out these administrative, political, and welfare functions, and how the workplace affects one's life chances and well-being under socialism. Using data from a 1988 survey conducted in China's third largest city, Tianjin, the author documents and interprets convincingly how an individual's chances for employment and promotion were affected by his or her parents' workplace, and how the most unique of resources in the later days of socialism—guanxi (relation, connection)—was distributed or possessed differendyby people at different locations in the Chinese workplace hierarchy. The workplace, the auAior shows, has a significant and important impact on political involvement/party membership, wage income, and the collective consumption of urban employees. Bian's work stands at die cutting edge of Aie research on social inequalities in urban China. Recent work in this area has increasingly associated and attributed inequalities under socialism to such...


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