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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

5 - Urban Outposts in Rural China


Chapter Five explores how, in the wake of the 1973 campaign, the Shanghai government intensified efforts to help urban youth leave the fields, launching projects such as technical workshops in Shanghai in which youth could participate during their home visits as well as distance-learning courses offered for sent-down youth in rural areas. This promotion of education and technical training enhanced the opportunities for sent-down youth to escape fieldwork and take on less physically taxing jobs in rural areas as office clerks, accountants, electrical engineers, machine technicians, and barefoot teachers and doctors. In some areas, the Shanghai government provided material and financial resources for the establishment of small factories and sent-down youth stations; urban outposts scattered across the rural landscape that were entirely independent of the village economy. Although these programs were ostensibly initiated to support the sent-down youth movement, they inadvertently intensified a new boundary in the countryside that divided sent-down youth and villagers. They also turned urban youth into educated and skilled rural residents who became some of the most privileged residents in the countryside.