Identity, realization, and expectation : social mobility and military experiences of Chinese pilots

Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 32 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

James J.Z. Zetka

Committee Members

Richard R.L. Lachmann , Joanna J.D. Dreby


Air pilots, Military, Social mobility, Air forces

Subject Categories



Prior studies pointed out military service is a turning point that redirects veterans’ life course in many domains, including socioeconomic attainments, drug use, deviant behaviors, marital status, family relationship, and life-long wellbeing. These researches recognized the profound social impacts of both the general military experience and the combat experience in shaping veterans’ life courses negatively and positively. Using twenty in-depth interviews, this study aims to understand the social meaning and social impact of joining the military in the China Air Force. In this article, the “deficiencies in status quo” and “socially constructed prospect” are two frameworks to explain the structural factors behind the personal choices of entering the pilot training school. These two frameworks show how school, family, and media portray military service as the embodiment of success, patriotism, and masculinity. This article further shows military experience for pilots legitimizes a series of social memberships which accumulatively enhance upward mobility and military identity. Mental and physical traumas caused by flight accidents and long-distance relationships tend to be regarded as by-products of gaining social memberships and often be less noticed. Altogether, these memberships exemplify how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains the loyalty of the China Air Force by utilizing political propaganda and controlling the social welfare system.

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