Gramsci in China post 1978
: the Chinese intellectuals’ role in the process of China’s socio-economic and political transformation

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


China’s economic transformation has caught worldwide attention for better or worse. However, its political development, equally peculiar, has been stagnant and vehemently confronted by all positions along the political spectrum. The development of the productive force facilitating the dynamic interactions in civil society has not delivered an anticipated transformation of the superstructure. Beyond the canon of all theories and odds (the neo-liberal narrative especially), it is crucial to create capacity constantly for a holistic and culturally-embedded understanding of China’s social fabric and state-society relation, in which Chinese intellectuals have determined to some extent socioeconomic changes. Within the framework of the Gramscian theory of hegemony and of organic intellectuals, this thesis explores in a dialectical and historical perspective Chinese intellectuals’ identity and role under a self-proclaimed socialist state, grappling inter-discursively with the rhetoric of the Communist Party of China (CPC). To this end, the thesis addresses to what extent the Gramscian theory of hegemony explains the CPC’s socio-political functions; to what extent Chinese intellectuals play an organic role; and to what extent an ideological consensus exists between Chinese intellectuals and the CPC. The work is qualitatively based with employment of critical discourse analysis and a single holistic reflexive case study conducted in Fujian China, with fieldwork spanning the higher education and healthcare sectors. Here, I argue that Chinese intellectuals overall are highly responsive to the CPC’s policies evident in issue areas such as higher education and healthcare. However, the ideological consensus between them are often weakened by the ineffectiveness of dealing with systemic corruption in higher education and the profiteering tendency in healthcare. Therefore, I conclude that it is the push and pull effects emerging from power struggles that have complicated Chinese intellectuals’ identity and impeded them from becoming organic intellectuals of the proletariat/peasantry. The Gramscian theory of hegemony can explain the CPC’s socio-political functions that do not effectively counter the permeation of neo-liberalism. Nevertheless, this would bring about proletarianization that encourages new generations of self-reflective intellectuals to embrace a Gramscian outlook. The idealised integral state hegemony posited by Gramsci can only be fulfilled if the CPC steps back and provides the opportunity for Chinese intellectuals to become self-conscious.
Date of Award1 Feb 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlex Callinicos (Supervisor) & Ramon Pacheco Pardo (Supervisor)

Cite this