A severe shortage of educated labour during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to1976) led leaders in post-Mao China to focus on economic growth, adoptingpractices and ideas used in market economies to transform China’s commandeconomy, which had proved to be inefficient and financially unsatisfactory. TheChinese government, influenced by neo-liberal ideas, introduced measures thatemphasised privatisation and marketisation in the implementation of social policyand social services. Education, and in particular higher education, is one of China’smajor fields of social policy and it has not been immune from the growinginfluence of privatisation and marketisation, particularly as the State has reducedits role in providing and financing education. Before privatisation and marketisa-tion, all Chinese citizens enjoyed free higher education, whereas now they must paytuition and other related fees. As a result, they complain about the rising cost ofeducation, criticising the government for shifting this heavy financial burden toparents and students. The policy context briefly outlined above will serve as abackdrop against which this article will examine the social and political conse-quences of the privatisation and marketisation of education. This article alsodiscusses the major policies and strategies adopted by the Chinese government toredefine its role in education in order to address the negative consequences ofprivatisation and marketisation. Finally, it also critically examines the key impli-cations of major reforms to higher education in mainland China throughout thereform process.