More than Affirmative Action: China’s Preferential Policy in Historical and Comparative Perspective

Mar 7 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Wang Liping (Professor of Political Science in the School of Government, Peking University; Visiting Scholar, Harvard-Yenching Institute)
Chair/discussant: Lei Ya-Wen (
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

With the ethical appeal of equality and justice as well as a more cohesive society, affirmative action has been in place for many years around the world. Such measures, going by various names depending on the context and perceived acceptability, have attained their goals to varying degrees in different countries even though the debates around them are never silenced. In many countries adopting such policies, the political logic of preferential policies has long influenced policy construction and a dilemma ensues: affirmative policies are enduring or even expanding while doubts and questions about such measures are bubbling up. With the rapid increase in diversity in many dimensions, old and new, the situation in China is more pressing. The talk will focus on China’s preferential policies in historical and comparative perspective, hoping to gain a better understanding of such policies and to advance more constructive discussions about the affirmative action dilemma in China and beyond.