This presentation, based on Dr Liu’s recent work with Professor Wenqin Shen from Peking University, investigates the extent to which higher education experiences shape young people’s civic engagement and social attitudes in China.
They draw upon empirical evidence from 68 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with university students from different social backgrounds and in different universities.
The preliminary findings suggest that in the context of a weak prior tradition of civic engagement, our respondents seem to develop varied patterns of public engagement which are often fragile and erratic. The findings also suggest an enduring Confucian tradition of trust based on quasi-familist networks.
Furthermore, the most educated youth still demonstrate a low level of tolerance for homosexuals and the migrant underclass. In some cases, respondents even seek to use knowledge derived from their study to justify such prejudices.
This study provides new evidence on the formation of youth social attitudes which had previously been under-researched. It contributes to our understanding of the inter-related nature of the expansion of higher education and the complex socioeconomic and political forces that both help and hinder the formation of a civic and tolerant society in China.
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