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ODU's Chen Invited To Speak At Prestigious Brookings Institution

Jie Chen, Old Dominion University's Louis I. Jaffe Professor and chair of the political science and geography department, has been invited to speak this fall at the prestigious Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The two-day conference, titled "China's Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation," will be held Sept. 22-23. The conference will be open to the public and will bring together a number of leading experts from the United States, the People's Republic of China and elsewhere to discuss various aspects of China's middle class.

According to Cheng Li, director of research and senior fellow at Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center, each speaker will write and present a piece of original research that sheds light on the conference's central question: What impacts, current and future, can China's emerging middle class have on the country's social structure and political system? The Brookings Institution Press intends to publish the papers next spring.

Chen's topic will be "The Red Middle Class in China: Political Attitudes and Behavior of the Middle Class." Chen, who has been conducting survey research in China on a National Science Foundation grant, has found that while most members of China's middle class are in favor of individual rights, they shun political liberties - such as the freedom to demonstrate and to form organizations - and are not interested in democratic institutions such as the fully competitive election of leaders without restriction on political parties, nor enthusiastic about participating in government affairs and politics.

Chen's research also supports two key propositions in the literature under debate among scholars: (1) there is a negative correlation between the middle class's dependence on the state and its support for democracy, and (2) the middle class's perceived social and economic well-being is also negatively associated with its democratic support.

"Brookings is one of the most prominent think tanks in the country and in the world," Chandra de Silva, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said. "We are very pleased that they have recognized the importance of Dr. Chen's research by extending this invitation to him to speak at their conference."

The conference will seek to: 1) examine the state of research on social stratification and social mobility in China; 2) identify major issues and trends related to the Chinese middle class; 3) compare the characteristics of the Chinese middle class with their counterparts in other countries; and 4) assess the values, worldviews and potential political participation of the Chinese middle class as well as the implications of its existence for China's rise on the world stage.

This article was posted on: April 15, 2009

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