A revolution in gender and familial life : an analysis of socio-political and cultural factors on the contemporary Chinese family : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University
The aim of this study is to investigate gender relations and the family in contemporary China. More specifically it seeks to contextualise the contemporary Chinese family within a socio-historical, political and cultural analysis of China from the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. It uses a historical sociological methodology, on the basis of existing studies. It attempts to ascertain what has changed and what has stayed the same over the last fifty years, as well as to evaluate what Chinese families have gained and lost as a result of government reforms. With a different focus in each chapter, the study examines some of the ways the accelerated quest for modernity has impacted on the Chinese family and society. It explores family structure and the rapid changes currently taking place in dating, romance, and marriage, reproduction, child socialisation practices, and gender and family relationships. Far more than in most countries, the Chinese family plays a central role in economic relations and political ideology, which makes these changes especially consequential. One obvious impact of the government reforms on the Chinese family lifestyle was the preservation of traditional beliefs and practices, such as wedding and funeral ceremonies, ancestral worship and preferences for sons over daughters. Another impact discussed by this study has been the attempt to remake the Chinese family into an economic and social unit, depriving it of its traditional ideological, spiritual, and ritual significance. But the real challenge imposed by the current government, that may ultimately weaken or even fundamentally change the Chinese family, has been the birth control campaign. Socially and economically, this study shows that the well-being of many young couples especially rural couples, with only one daughter may be endangered when they could no longer carry out manual labour on their farm. The main conclusion from this analysis is that the family and its continuity still occupy the focal point in the lives of Chinese people.