Ethnicity, Class and Social Stratification in China and Japan


The Chinese ethnic, social and class stratification have been reflected n the different fifty-six ethnic groups with Han being the majority group and the other fifty-five being the inferior clusters in the population of China. These groups account for only ten percent of the country’s population, and most of them are inhabitants of rural confines especially in the western part of China. The dame case applies to Japan made up of several minority groups stratified to create hierarchical groups and developing strict social systems thus ethnic, social, and class boundaries. The discussion will focus on identifying the stratifications existing in China and Japan based on ethnicity, social, and class.

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Class Stratification

Japan is made up of people who are very strict with their culture that is quite clear in its features, wherein the course of its history Japanese have portrayed various roles in defining the confines of the countries national identity. They possess a modern form of class that is to some magnitude respective to the kind of situation so that in a distinct situation, the principles of the class takes the lead (Hendry 95). There is a case where the class relationship can be reversed between two people in a different field. For instance, a guest is considered the most famous person, and he or she is placed above others in the group such as the organizers of an occasion, and generally, men put themselves above women.

Class stratifications influence the interaction of the people in Japan as they go on with their daily lives. It is also complicated in some situations to be aware of how to behave towards another individual in which you are not conscious of his class. It starts from the time of greetings signaled through bowing that portrays the difference in class. Hendry states: “one bow more deeply to a superior than to an inferior, and one should stay down longer than one’s superior” (92). Other cues that suggest the difference in class are the speech differences, the terms of address.

In China, the society identifies its class according to the label system that was introduced back in the 1950s. Classes include the landlord, the landless laborers, the middle and rich peasants (Gill 116). Just like in Japan, the cue of addressing an inferior and a superior are similar, only that in China farmers and laborers were the inferior and were not treated with the dignity they deserved until in 19980s when reforms the social stratification changed entering into openness and fluidity releasing the inferiors from many ties of social order.

Ethnic Stratification

In China, the fifty-six ethnic groups with Han being the majority group, and the rest groups are the minorities found n western China. Han makes up ninety-eight percent of the population in China (Jacka et al. 147). The majority of China’s population holds political positions and powerful posts in the government until recent years when they started including the minorities. Within the majorities were the Mongolians, Manchurians as well as Tibetan that were spread across China’s borders to reach other important minority groups. The article by Jacka et al. about ethnicity in China says, “the Manchus led the dynasty and enacted many laws and policies directed at creating and maintaining the ethnic distinctiveness and privilege of their group” (147).

In Japan, just like in China, it is made up of a majority group of puppeteers living in Awaji Island in Japan; some minorities are considered outsiders. They have played various roles in the history of Japan thus defining the boundaries of the Japanese national identity (Jacka et al. 147). These minorities include Koreans, the people of Ezo living in the north as well as the Island of Ryukyu towards the south were all identified as foreigners, but with time they ended up creating the general Japanese expansion. Later during the history of Japan, foreigners were being forced to become citizens, there emerged more immigrants from China, then the Okinawans and Anus also became Japanese, but they are discriminated along ethnic lines.

Social Stratification

Social stratification implies that in every society, services and goods are not equitably distributed. So you find some individuals are wealthier while others are destitute. Thus there are the inferior and the above positions. In Japan, the society is stratified from the superior to the inferior, where the superior are the Emperor, Shogun, and Daimyo, where else, the inferior are many, and they include the peasants, artisans, and the merchants (Lenski 58 ).

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Within the society, due to the social status one hold, it determines the life opportunities as well as remuneration; thus the lowest person in the social class remains weak. Lenski says, “the minority who are the majority of the countrymen are simply doing the same kind of work as before but on a casual basis” (71). It means that the people at the lowest class are provided with occupations that are determined by their social status in society.

In China, initially, the social stratification was similar to that of Japan, but with time the People’s Republic of China, Chinese social stratification has changed from a rigid status of the hierarchical under Mao to an open evolving social class system. The inequalities that initially existed due to the social class of an individual in the society also changed (Liang 85). It was through the revolution of the China Republic including re-education that weakened the measures that were there to regain social control.

In “The Death of a Detainee” Liang depicts, “The measures are specifically designed to re-educate and find shelter as well as employment for vagrants and beggars within the cities to regain social control, peace and solidarity in the cities” (85).

In conclusion, social, class, and ethnicity diversities and stratification between the two countries are not far from each other, but the fundamental similarities and differences have been identified to mold the cultures that define the general nationality of the two countries. Japanese class has been molded through the hierarchical order that has been created by the entire society while in China, the cadre and the Quasi-Cadre, the capitalists, and the urban workers are the classes that were developed in the 1950s.

Ethnicity stratification in China is more diverse with fifty-six groups but the majority group; Han holds critical positions of power to manipulate the minority groups. In Japan, puppeteers are the majority group while the minorities are immigrants from China, Korea, and Taiwan. The social stratification of Japan is the oldest and still hold roots into the country, where the rich and wealthy are the one holding powerful positions in the country. IN China, the social stratification was similar to that of Japan, but it has evolved with time diluting the system through re-education.

Works Cited

Gill, Tom. Men of Uncertainty: The Social Organization of Day Laborers in Contemporary Japan. SUNY Press, 2001.

Hendry, Joe. “Status, hierarchy and ethnic diversity”. Understanding Japanese Society. Routledge, 2012, pp. 91-114.

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Jacka, Tamara, et al. Contemporary China: Society and Social Change. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Lenski, Gerhard E. Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification. UNC Press Books, 2013.

Liang, Zhiping. “The Death of a Detainee. The Predicament of Status Politics in Contemporary China and the Way Out.” Governance of Life in Chinese Moral Experience:The Quest for an Adequate Life, edited by Everett Zhang et al., Routledge, 2010, pp. 83-102.

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StudyCorgi. "Ethnicity, Class and Social Stratification in China and Japan." February 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Ethnicity, Class and Social Stratification in China and Japan." February 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Ethnicity, Class and Social Stratification in China and Japan'. 20 February.

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