Women, Gender and Rural Development in China

Women, Gender and Rural Development in China

Edited by Tamara Jacka and Sally Sargeson

This multidisciplinary book explores gender politics in the discourses and practices of development in rural China. The contributors – scholars in political science, anthropology, gender, development and Chinese studies – examine how differently positioned women are shaping rural development, and how development is affecting women’s capabilities and gender power relations.

Chapter 4: Reproduction and Real Property in Rural China: Three Decades of Development and Discrimination

Laurel Bossen

Subjects: asian studies, asian social policy, development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, social policy in emerging countries


1 Laurel Bossen During the past three decades of China’s soaring economic development, two core aspects of state policy have had transformative effects on rural households. These are the imposition of state-imposed controls over reproduction and the shift from collective to privately managed agricultural production. The state controls over reproduction are widely known as the ‘one-child-policy’, even though the policy has not uniformly limited the population to one child per couple in rural areas. There has been a degree of flexibility so that in some provinces and counties parents have had to stop after one child if the first was a son, and in others they have been allowed two children regardless of the sex, and up to three if the first two were daughters. The population policy became ‘gendered’ in response to the persistent demand to have at least one son.2 In the transition to privately managed farming, the important change was the distribution of farmland under contract under the household responsibility system. Land did not become private property, but continued to belong to the village collectively. Contracted use-rights were, at first, of varying duration; in some communities they were adjusted every five years or so. Other communities made one-time distributions under long-term contracts without periodic readjustments. The initial distribution allocated land to households according to size. Although in some areas more land was distributed to men than women,3 in many parts of China the village leaders allocated the same amount of land per capita to all members...

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