Cash Cow, Civic Space or Co-optation: Private Schools in Urban China

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


Almost all realms of Chinese society have been affected by privatization. Education is no exception, although its privatization does not necessarily affect the school system per se. Chinese scholars have usually provided two explanations for privatized schooling in China: 'massification' (educational expansion) and 'pluralization' (diversification).

In my research project on private schools in urban China, I propose that privatization in Chinese education can point to three possible meanings or enactments. Firstly, it can simply denote the commodification of education: turning public into private property. Secondly, it can stand for the creation of newly emerging private spaces: both as intimate spaces, as has been argued vis-à-vis China's neo-liberalization since the 1990s, and as civilian spaces, as has been maintained with regard to the traditional Chinese community school and academy. Thirdly, however, the embrace of the wealthy (e.g. private investors in education, or the potential clientele of private schools) by those in power can also be seen as an efficient way to reinforce the state through the co-optation of particular social strata, resulting in a powerful coalition of government and entrepreneurs, which allows for new forms of governance, defines spaces for civilian engagement, and occupies sites of 'privateness'.

Drawing on document analysis and fieldwork at private schools in Beijing, Kunming, and Zhejiang Province, my paper will scrutinize the complexities of educational consumption in newly emerging (private) spaces, which serve as (confined) projection surfaces for Chinese educational desires and dreams.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Educational Sciences


  • China, education, privatization, commodification, governance
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
EventCERA-UK Annual Conference 2015: Chinese Education Today: Practice and Research - London
Duration: 2015 Jun 25 → …


ConferenceCERA-UK Annual Conference 2015: Chinese Education Today: Practice and Research
Period2015/06/25 → …

Related projects

Barbara Schulte


Project: ResearchIndividual research project, Interdisciplinary research

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