Lower class status was desirable during the Cultural Revolution because those of higher class were considered part of the old order.
Class status refers to what socioeconomic group your family belonged to before the revolution. People who had been part of the upper class before the revolution were blamed for the country’s problems and considered dangerous.
When Ji-li wants to join the Liberation Army performance troupe, she has the grades and qualifications to get in. Her father is worried because there will be a political investigation.
That is an investigation into the class status of your ancestors and all members of your family… (p. 7)
Ji-li notes that until then, she felt that her life and family were “nearly perfect” (p. 13). However, her family did not have the right class status. Her father was an actor, and her grandmother had been educated.
Ji-li is frustrated and confused by the fact that her family’s upper-class background is holding her back in the new order.
Maybe I had bad class status, but I would have good grades. (p. 61)
The family background will haunt them. In most revolutions, the groups that come to power are the groups that didn’t have it before. Naturally they are resentful and cautious. By making aristocratic background a bad class status, they limit the power of the previously powerful. Poor Ji-li did not understand any of that. She just knew people treated her differently for something that was not her fault.