The impacts of neo-liberalism on China's higher education

Ka Ho, Joshua MOK, Yat Wai, William LO

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


In the last two decades, China has experienced significant economic transformations and social changes. The economic reforms started in the late 1970s have unquestionably enabled some social groups to become wealthy. Nonetheless, the same processes have also widened the gap between the rich and the poor and intensified regional disparities in China. Most significant of all, embracing the market economy has inevitably challenged the way socialism is practiced in China: this has also led to the growing prominence of ideas and strategies along the lines of neo-liberalism being adopted not only in reforming the economic sector but also in managing the public sector and in delivering social policy. More recently, the Chinese government has attempted to internationalize the country by following the models set out by some of the supranational organizations such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). After struggling for 15 years for membership, China achieved accession to the WTO in 2001. After becoming a member of the WTO, it is clear that the norms, guidelines and regulations of that organisation have influenced not only the way that trade and business are managed, but also how Higher Education is run, especially when Higher Education is defined as a service by the General Agreement on Trade as a WTO directive. As with other Asian countries faced with the global trends of privatisation, marketization and commodification, China has appropriated the neo-liberal policies and pro-competition instruments to reform and restructure its education. Under the intensified pressures for improving the global competence of university graduates, China, on the one hand, has to expand higher education enrolments, and on the other hand, has attempted to assure high quality in teaching and research to compete internationally and globally. As dependence upon state financing and provision alone will never satisfy the growing demands for Higher Education, China has therefore increasingly looked to the market/private sector and other non-state sectors to venture into Higher Education provision, hence diversifying education services and proliferating education providers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-348
Number of pages33
JournalJournal for Critical Education Policy Studies (JCEPS)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2007
Externally publishedYes


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