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Digital Divide and Social Cleavage: Case Studies of ICT Usage among Peasants in Contemporary China*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2011

Yuhua Guo
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, Tsinghua University. Email: guo-yh@mail.tsinghua.edu.cn (corresponding author)
Peng Chen
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, Tsinghua University
Corresponding

Abstract

During its structural transformation, rural China witnessed the emergence of four types of village: traditional, industrialized, commercial and villages in cities. Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), including fixed phones, cell phones, television sets and the internet (with personal computers), are now commonly used in Chinese villages but in ways that differentiate villagers according to variables such as occupation, villager membership and social status. The adoption of ICTs by peasants not only represents but also accelerates growing peasant differentiation; in other words, the function of ICTs could not penetrate the barrier of social structure. Meanwhile, structural transformation in China has been an activator to shaping peasants' diversified ideas about information, and the demand for and usage of ICTs. An analysis of peasants' ICT adoption thus enables us to identify the basic trends and characteristics of social transformation in contemporary China.

Type
Special Section on the Internet in China
Copyright
Copyright © The China Quarterly 2011

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References

1 Sassen, Saskia, “Towards a sociology of information technology,” Current Sociology, Vol. 50 (2002), pp. 365–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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8 The former type was mainly composed of a series of administrative institutional arrangements, such as the household registration system, food supply system, employment system, education system and social security system; the latter type concentrated more on the market forces which led to less connection between the urban and the rural. See Sun, Liping, Zhuanxing yu duanlie: gaige yilai Zhongguo shehui jiegou de bianqian (Transition and Cleavage: Changes in Chinese Social Structure since the Reform) (Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 2004), pp. 318–22Google Scholar.

9 In our fieldwork we selected two traditional villages, but for reasons of article length just one is described here.

10 The information came from the village committee's official documents.

11 This type of cell phone doesn't have its own brand name and always imitates a brand cell phone's function and style.

12 Sun, Liping, Duanlie: ershi shiji jiushi niandai yilai de Zhongguo shehui (Cleavage: Chinese society since the 1990s) (Beijing: Social Science Academic Press, 2003), pp. 15Google Scholar.

13 Yao, Wanlu, “Dangdai Zhongguo nongmin fenhua xingtai fenxi” (“Analysis of peasants' differentiation in contemporary China”), Gansu lilun xuekan (Gansu Theory Journal), No. 4 (2003), pp. 4345Google Scholar.

14 For more information on work-units, see Feng, Lu, “Danwei: yizhong teshu de shehui zuzhi xingshi” (“Work-unit: a particular form of social organization”), Zhongguo shehui kexue (Social Science in China), No. 1 (1989), p.70Google Scholar; and Lu, Xiaobo and Perry, Elizabeth (eds.), Danwei: The Changing Chinese Workplace in Historical and Comparative Perspective (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1997)Google Scholar.

15 Fei, Xiaotong, Xiangtu Zhongguo (Earthbound China) (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 1985), pp. 13Google Scholar.

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