Martin K. Whyte

John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Sociology, Emeritus, former Acting Director of the Fairbank Center 2007-2008


Professor Martin K. Whyte (怀默霆) joined the faculty of the Department of Sociology at Harvard in fall 2000, after previously teaching at the University of Michigan and George Washington University.

Professor Whyte’s primary research and teaching specialties are comparative sociology, sociology of the family, sociology of development, the sociological study of contemporary China, and the study of post-communist transitions. His recent writings reflect these divergent interests: an edited volume entitled Marriage in America: A Communitarian Perspective (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) and an edited collection of papers drawing on a survey project that focused on relations between aging parents and their grown children in urban Chinese families, entitled China’s Revolutions and Inter-Generational Relations (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 2003).

Professor Whyte’s primary research centers on determining how Chinese citizens view the rising gaps between rich and poor in their society. A pilot survey for this project was successfully conducted in Beijing in December 2000. A national survey focusing on inequality and distributive justice issues was completed in the summer of 2004. The results of the 2004 survey were published in Myth of the Social Volcano (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010) as well as in a number of recent articles. In the fall of 2009, he directed a five-year follow-up national survey of Chinese popular attitudes toward current inequalities. The goal of this second national survey was to determine whether later trends, including the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008, made Chinese citizens more or less critical of the market-based inequalities within which they now live. In 2014, Professor Whyte teamed up with two Norwegian China specialists, Kristin Dalen and Hedda Flatø, to carry out a third follow-up China national survey on popular attitudes toward that country’s rising income gaps. The data from these China surveys will be used to examine how Chinese attitudes toward distributive justice issues have evolved in the new millennium.

Based on a conference at the Fairbank Center in 2006 on China’s rural-urban gap, Professor Whyte edited a resulting conference volume: One Country, Two Societies: Rural-Urban Inequality in Contemporary China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010). He has also published articles on other topics, particularly the puzzle of explaining how the Chinese economy has grown so rapidly in the post-Mao era and critical examinations of population trends and China’s controversial one-child policy.

Research interests: comparative sociology; sociology of the family; sociology of development; the sociological study of contemporary China; the study of post-communist transitions.