Chinese women's experiences in the context of the two-child policy : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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In December 2015, a new family planning policy that allows all Chinese married couples to have two children became a law in China, which represented the end of China’s decades-long controversial one-child policy. This universal two-child policy was implemented to help address the aging issue and the looming labour shortage in China through the regulation of Chinese women’s reproductive decisions and freedom, where women’s bodies and fertility have always been linked to economic development and national survival. Within the operation of gendered institutional power relations, Chinese women’s social roles are defined as mothers and wives by the foremost focus on their reproductive functions for the interests and needs of the state. Similar to the one-child policy, women’s interests have been marginalised in the formulation of the two-child policy and their voices were and are ‘missing’ on China’s mainstream media after the policy’s release. This research listens to the ‘missing voices’ from Chinese women about their experiences of being a woman in China’s family planning programme, explores their stories with the two-child policy within a variety of social power relations, and asks how their lives have been affected as they become the recipients of political agendas in the gendered social hierarchy. Ten young Chinese women residing in New Zealand volunteered to participate in conversational interviews that were focused on Chinese women’s experiences and stories in the context of the two-child policy and the changes that this new policy initiative may have brought to their lives. The interviews were voice-recorded, translated and transcribed, and analysed using feminist standpoint epistemology and Braun and Clarke’s (2006) method of thematic analysis in a narrative inquiry. Four main themes were identified throughout the participants’ narratives, where almost all of the Chinese women in this study have experienced the privileges of living as an only child while also embedded in the stories of son preference in their families or the society. In the context of the two-child policy, even though all participants believed that this policy would be likely to position Chinese women at a more precarious and disadvantaged status in the workplace, most of them would still choose to accept the state narrative. The analysis showed that Chinese women face both new and recurring challenges of a resurgence of tradition in their lives. The women talked about their acceptance and willingness to have two children despite their recognition of the impact of the policy for their future educational and employment in the future and the complexities of son preference. Within the context of the one-child policy, the two child policy is recognised within the narratives as reproductive freedom. There were, however, some counternarratives that resist the state call to reproduce.