In this article I report findings of research into the lives and work of Mainland Chinese teachers of English in a broader context characterized by market economic reform. I draw on transcriptions of group interviews to describe and discuss teachers’ lives and work, and forward a critical analysis that posits a connection between teachers’ accounts and the re-structuring of social relations in post-Mao China. The article details one of several themes treated in the study, specifically the broad category of ‘effects of educational reform.’ I suggest that the compliance and resistance apparent in these accounts reveals Chinese teachers to be neither cultural dopes nor harbingers of some newly emerging democratic society.

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