Social origins of the Chinese scientific elite

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The literature on China's social stratification and mobility has discussed the roles of family background and an individual's education attainment. This article aims to extend the existing literature by examining the interplay of these two aspects in fostering a homogeneous group of scientists, the members (yuanshi) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS, Zhongguo kexueyuan). Based on biographical information and interviews with some of the CAS members, the article explores the consistent and universal role of education, while at the same time revealing the importance of family (including parental occupation and educational level), in the upbringing of these scientists. The social origins are a microscopic image of a changing society. As the first effort to look at the social origins of the Chinese scientific elite, who are important as a group which serves as indicator of the direction of change in Chinese society, this study may throw some new light on the general background of the social and political world in which the scientists have operated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1018
Number of pages27
JournalChina Quarterly
Issue number160
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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