Changing ideological discourse in the People’s Republic of China with specific reference to rural educational inequity
Yeung, Hok Wo Henry
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Marxism, which claims to be superior to capitalism, reached China with a promise to eliminate inequity. The reality however has been problematic in that inequality persists. In terms of education, many school-age children are deprived of access. Even those who manage to attend school receive sub-quality education and less opportunity for higher education and higher paid jobs. The focus of this thesis is specifically inequity in educational provision in rural China, by locating policy thinking in discourses from 1949, with three distinct periods identified: the eras of Mao, Deng and post-Deng to the present. This study is inspired by Freire’s humanistic vision. Althusser’s concept of “ideological state apparatus” informs the framework of the existence of complex ideological relations and a dominant ideology. The main theoretical tool employed in this study of Chinese Marxism is through a Foucauldian lens of discourse as knowledge/power nexus. By focusing on the dominant discourses constructed by the Chinese leadership, it is possible to outline the changing nature of discursive practices which inform and legitimate educational priorities. The arguments used to justify policy priorities are both the outcome of power and a contribution to the knowledge/power of the leadership. The analysis examines the interpretation and position of Chinese Marxism in relation to the global context and the local historical and socio-political themes of Chinese society. Abbreviated as a global-local dialectic, this dynamic relationship between external and internal factors distinctively shapes political choices and priorities. This dialectic provides a more complex framework to analyse why it is that deprived Chinese communities — at least in educational terms — have been the least likely to benefit from the country’s increasing wealth. This study reveals that i) Mao’s dominant discourse of proletarianism has turned education into a means of creating a proletarian culture and outlook, leaving other forms of educational inequity irrelevant to its main concern; ii) under Deng’s economism, as related to China’s modernisation, rural educational inequity is acknowledged but mainly in a rhetorical way and often, in practice, to the detriment of this provision; and iii) the post-Deng era is dominated by the attempt to secure social cohesion because of increasing political instability. The official solution involves a focus on “harmony” by linking Marxist and Confucian ideas into a distinct ideological framework, which stresses values of justice and harmony, leading to a greater emphasis on addressing issues such as rural-urban educational inequity. Ideo-political adaptability in shaping policies has sustained the position of the ruling party. Educational policy as a tool, however, continues to be sub-ordinated to the national dominant discourse.