How are Chinese students ideologically divided? A survey of Chinese college students’ political self-identification

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-74
Journal / PublicationPacific Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Students have always played an important role in defining the politics of China, and their ideological orientation shapes the nature of student politics. Through a survey of students from six elite universities, this study explores the outlook of Chinese youth’s political identities and analyzes the factors conditioning their identity formation. The results reveal three trends. First, the majority of these college students either claim themselves to be apolitical or to be liberals. Second, among various channels of political (re)socialization, family plays a weak role, while mass media has a strong influence on students’ political orientation. Peking University, the base for nurturing liberals in the 1990s, has now yielded this role to universities specializing in economics and finance, thus suggesting the impact of economic liberalism since the 1990s. Third, gender, education level, academic major, family income and Communist Party membership are all good indicators of students’ political identities. These results are interpreted in the context of student movements and intellectual transition in China over the past four decades.

Research Area(s)

  • China, Liberal-leftist/nationalist divide, Political identity, Students, Survey