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Post-‘Up to the Mountain Down to the Countryside’ Experiences and Responses of the Zhiqing

Post-‘Up to the Mountain Down to the Countryside’ Experiences and Responses of the Zhiqing

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Tricia Kehoe. Originally submitted for Chinese Social Studies at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr. Xiong Huan in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Tricia Kehoe. Originally submitted for Chinese Social Studies at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr. Xiong Huan in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/13/2014

 
Course Title:
BA (Chinese Pathway)
 Year of Study:
2nd
Title of Essay:
Post-
 ‘Up to the Mountain Down to theCountryside’ Experiences and
Responses of the Zhiqing
Submission Date:
9 December 2010
 
2
‘State policies are like a train. When it turns round the corner it throws you off 
’ 
1
 Throughout my reading and research on the experiences of the educated youth(zhiqing), in particular those who experienced the Up to the Mountains Down to theCountryside (UMDC) movement, the manner in which life courses can be sofundamentally influenced by the actions of the state seems so appropriately summedup in the above quotation. Consider a long and necessary journey where the trainmay be your only option of transportation. Even if you are thrown off along the
 journey, you still have to get back on track. Despite the ‘injuries’ incurred through,
the journey goes on to make your destination. In the case of the returning zhiqing,
how would these ‘injuries’ of implemented policies impact upon their li
fe courses andshape their post UMDC experiences? Moreover, what was their response to being
 ‘thrown off’?
 In this essay, the author wishes to investigate the post-UMDC experiences andresponses in light of the rise of neoliberalist values in China. In order to fullyhighlight the social costs of the growing neoliberalist policy orientation of the Chinese
state throughout the late 80’s and 90’s
, the author will focus on those zhiqing whospent more than six years in the countryside under the UMDC movement and whoselife, as Zhou and Han (1999, pp.18) suggest, experienced a more severe impact as aresult of a relatively long stay in the countryside. The author will first explore thenature of the reforms and opening-
up policies from the late 70’s onwards in China
and their subsequent impacts on the life of the returned zhiqing. Following that, wewill consider the how active the zhiqing have been in responding to these processes.
Wind of Return to the Cities( 
返城风 
 ): What were the Zhiqing Returning to? 
Lasting for 12 years, the UMDC movement was a means of alleviated growingpopulation and unemployment issues in the cities of China, as well as a means of 
1 
Hung, E. P. H. and Chiu, S. W.K., 2003, p.1. The Lost Generation: Life Course Dynamics and Xiagangin China.
Modern China.
29 (2).
 
3
tackling the chaos of the Red Guards that characterized the beginning of the CulturalRevolution. In return for the altruism and sacrifice in the struggle for the socialist
cause, as discussed by Dittmer (1998, p.179), Liu Shaoqi’s ‘promise of reciprocity’ 
through appreciation and being looked after was the prospect and expectation of thereturning zhiqing. The attraction of the stability and security of employment in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) laws to account for 46.1% of the returning zhiqing
2
.However, the overwhelmingly attractive Iron Rice Bowl (
铁饭碗
) of SOEs wassignificantly not the only option available. A new era had begun and reforms aimedat moving towards a market economy were in place. Self-employment and allowingmore autonomy in SOEs suggested a shift in the ideological orientation of the state.Moreover, the gradual decentralization of state power and interests (
放权让利
) andthe expansion of independence and redistribution of SOEs demonstrated a shift invalues to that of economic liberation and the advocating of a more competitive spirit,ultimately signally the rise of neoliberalism in China. The sacrifice of the individual forthe good of the co-operative was now to fall into the shadows of the rise of the self-interest and competition. Perhaps, in this respect, we may even note that these
values were in fact at work during the return of the zhiqing in the late 70’s. Marking
a radical departure from the socialist egalitarian nature under which the zhiqing wereselected for the UMDC movement, wh
ereby father’s background and occupational
status played little role in the determination of probability of being send-down,
 ‘
theodds of return for the children of high-rank officials were twice as high as those forthe children of workers
’ 
3
. Perhaps, it is this point that marks the dawn of neo- 
2
Zhou X. G. and Hou, L. R., 1999, p.17. Children of the Cultural Revolution: The State and the LifeCourse in the People's Republic of China.
 American Sociological Journal 
, 64 (1).
3
Ibid,p. 16-17.

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