• Privatisation and marketisation of higher education;
  • social harmony;
  • the deprivatisation of education;
  • changing state-market relations;
  • educational inequality

In the last few decades, in the wake of three major crises in political faith and the overall instability that followed the end of the Cultural Revolution, the post-Mao Chinese government has sought to improve the lives of its citizens and to restore political legitimacy through rapid economic growth that has focused almost exclusively on GDP. This strong focus has brought about rapid, widespread economic growth to China, and has, by classical market standards, been a success. At the same time, issues of social development and human well-being have received less attention. Before the Hu-Wen leadership's formal accession to power, the Jiang-Zhu administration sought to adopt neo-liberal ideas and practices to reform the delivery of social services and the implementation and funding of social policy. In this context, major fields of social policy such as health, education, and housing have been going through the processes of marketisation and privatisation, which have placed much of the financial burden of meeting these social welfare needs on China's citizens. After several decades of privatisation and marketisation in the educational system, the Chinese government has been the subject of repeated criticism for failing to tackle what is popularly known as the ‘new three mountains phenomenon’, namely, the rising cost of health, education, and housing in recent years. Against the wider policy context described above, this article examines the social and political consequences of the privatisation and marketisation of education. It also discusses the major policies and strategies recently adopted by the Chinese government to restore the role of the State in the education system in order to address the negative consequences of the privatisation of education. Finally, it critically examines the main implications of major reforms undertaken in higher education in Mainland China.