Fragile Elite - The Dilemmas of China´s Top University Students
China's One Child Policy and its rigorous national focus on educational testing are well known. But what happens to those "lucky" few at the very top of the pyramid: elite university students in China who grew up under the One Child Policy and now attend the nation's most prestigious universities? How do they feel about having made it to the top of an extremely competitive educational system—as their parents' only child? What pressures do they face, and how do they cope with the expectations associated with being the best?
Fragile Elite explores the contradictions and perplexities of being an elite student through immersive ethnographic research conducted at two top universities in China. Susanne Bregnbæk uncovers the intimate psychological strains students suffer under the pressure imposed on them by parents and state, where the state acts as a parent and the parents reinforce the state. Fragile Elite offers fascinating insight into the intergenerational tensions at work in contemporary China and locates them within an ongoing shift in educational policy and what exactly it means to be a "quality" student, child, and citizen within Chinese society.
About the author Susanne Bregnbæk is Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen.