Meritocracy is a powerful ideology that was used by the Chinese Communist Party during China’s transition to a market economy. With the Gaokao in particular, the higher education selection became an ideal vehicle for the Party to associate itself with the ideology of meritocracy. This article investigates the extent to which higher education selection was based on meritocratic principles in contemporary China. A survey study involving around 960 first-year students was conducted in 2007 in two provinces. The statistical analysis did not suggest a strong socioeconomic selection. However, a cultural selectivity was indicated in predicting students’ Gaokao performance as well as their chances of getting into elite universities. Socio-demographic factors appeared to be more significant than socioeconomic status in affecting students’ higher education opportunities.
- China; meritocracy; the Gaokao; higher education; social stratification