The social cleavage between urban and rural residents is a core problem in relation to economic development and political stability in many societies. Barrington Moore and many others have shown that the way a society deals with its “peasant problem” has a critical influence on the resulting political and social order. Socialist economies, while pledging to promote social equality, in practice tended to discriminate against their rural citizens. In China this discrimination was particularly systematic, and the planned conference will explore both the sources and stubborn persistence of this discrimination and its implications for China's development prospects. This is a topic neglected in most discussions of inequality trends in China today. The dominant discourse in the China field regarding social inequality trends in recent decades can be summarized briefly as follows: Mao Zedong and his colleagues transformed China under socialism from a highly unequal to an egalitarian social order, but at the cost of economic efficiency and growth rates. Deng Xiaoping and the reformers dismantled most socialist institutions after 1978 and unleashed dramatic economic improvements, but thereby once again making China a very inegalitarian society. The facts in regard to China's ruralurban cleavage in many ways contradict this conventional wisdom. Mao and socialism constructed caste-like barriers between rural and urban residents that didn't exist before 1949, locking rural residents into serf-like bondage and subordination. The rural-urban cleavage in China’s form of socialism was anything but egalitarian. China's market reforms after 1978 have coincided with some weakening of this castelike division, particularly by allowing much more rural-urban migration. However, the migrants of China’s contemporary “floating population” are still deprived of full urban citizenship rights and access to many urban resources. The conference will examine multiple aspects of China's contemporary rural-urban cleavage in an effort to understand the origins and strength of China's most important status barrier and to consider recent critiques and reform proposals aimed at ending the caste-like subordination of China's rural residents and migrants.