Generations, Political Status, and Collective Memories in the Chinese Countryside

Authors


M. Kent Jennings (jennings@polsci.ucsb.edu) is professor of political science, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9420, and professor emeritus, University of Michigan.

Ning Zhang (nzhang@umail.ucsb.edu) is a Ph.D. candidate of political science, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9420.

Abstract

Interviews with a probability sample of villagers and with local cadres in four counties are used to explore their collective memories based on self-reports about the most important events over the past half century. As expected, public events dominate these memories, with the cadres citing party and state-related occurrences relatively more often than do the villagers. Generational effects reflecting the impact of events occurring during one's formative years are especially pronounced among the villagers. The absence of marked generational differences with respect to memories about the reform era is due to the prolonged experiencing of the long era by virtually all extant birth cohorts. Specific memories are associated with relevant political attitudes, especially among the cadres. Comparisons with reports based on other countries illustrate both the commonalties and the singularities of the Chinese results.

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