Change, Contradiction and the State: Higher Education in Greater China

Volume 244 – December 2020

Latest volume of The China Quarterly

Edited by:

Terry Bodenhorn, John P. Burns and Michael Palmer

This special issue examines various aspects of higher education in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and other parts of Greater China. An important concern of the issue is the relationship between higher education institutions (primarily, universities) and the policies, authority and controls of the state, while necessarily also giving attention to the rapid social and economic changes that are important contextualizing dimensions of this relationship. As the essays contributed to this issue illustrate, the “political economy” of higher education in contemporary China encompasses a variety of divergent pressures, and these forces are sometimes in conflict.1 The importance of education as a key cultural dimension of Chinese society has long been recognized, but there is limited research on the manner in which universities and other institutions of higher education are now being shaped by the political goals of governments and by contextualizing socio-economic forces. In mainland China, the party-state under Xi Jinping’s 习近平leadership is intensifying its aspirations for China’s leading universities to become world-ranked. Similar ambitions are found elsewhere in the Greater China region. At the same time, governments are encouraging and facilitating mass participation in universities and other institutions of higher education. These axiomatic aims do not necessarily cohere and may indeed in some respects conflict with each other.