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Weili Ding

Chapter 13 examines the effects of fertility patterns on family finance in rural China. The author surveys the interdisciplinary literature on family fertility and household finance, and discusses an emerging literature that examines the experience in rural China. She summarizes evidence from studies using nationally representative data that explore a suite of household financial decisions including consumption, investment, remittance, and gift exchange, thereby presenting empirical evidence that the influences of offspring gender structure on household financial activities at various stages of a Chinese family’s lifecycle are both enormous and varied.

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Zhanlian Feng

Chapter 17 claims that the Confucian norm of filial piety has been the cornerstone of the Chinese family. Under this cultural mandate, adult children have the moral responsibility for providing care and support, physically, financially, and emotionally, to their elderly parents. In China, the traditional family-based elder care system is being eroded by demographic shifts and socioeconomic changes in recent decades. China’s population is aging fast, and at the same time family size is shrinking and multigenerational households are waning. The availability of family caregivers is stretching thin, aggravated by increased population mobility and geographic dispersion of family members amid rapid urbanization and industrialization. Yet, China currently has a weak social safety net and is in the early stage of developing aged care services to meet the needs of an ever-increasing elderly population. This chapter discusses the continuity and changes in the age-old tradition of filial piety in a fast-changing society. The interface between the family-centered old age support system and emergent public policies to boost economic security and social services for the aged is also explored.

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Pan Wang

Chapter 6 reviews the scholarly literature on ‘Asia_West’ and ‘intra-Asia’ marriages and studies of foreign-related marriages in China. It then analyses how Chinese_foreign marriages started to ‘resurrect’ thanks to China’s economic liberation and legal reforms in the late 1970s. The early transitional period paralleled official recognition of, and public reservation against, Chinese_foreign marriages, especially marriages involving foreign nationals. The 1990s witnessed China’s changing attitudes towards cross-Strait relations, reflecting in the proliferation of cross-Strait marriages and the rising number of Chinese_foreign marriages overseas. China’s increasing globalization in the 2000s triggered the growth in the number of foreign spouses and internationalized marriages in China, giving rise to gendered discourses and binary constructions in relation to foreign spouses of Chinese in the media. Wang concludes by summarizing the changing character of foreign-related marriages in different historical periods and argues that these marriages have begun to shape and complicate the overarching marriage landscape in China in this century.

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Haiyan Zhu

Chapter 16 discusses gendered patterns in financial support to parents in China. The role of family as a primary source of support for the elderly is important for aging societies. This is particularly true in China, where filial piety is the central value of the family system and the majority of parents rely on their adult children, especially sons, for support. However, dramatic social, economic, and demographic changes have been eroding this traditional practice, thereby weakening intergenerational support between adult children and their parents. This chapter reviews recent research on children’s financial transfer to parents, focusing on gendered patterns. Traditionally, sons are permanent family members and are expected to care for their natal parents throughout their lives, while daughters begin to contribute to their husbands’ families upon marriage. Overall, research has shown a continuation of the traditional practice, especially in rural China and Taiwan, but also significant deviations, especially in urban China. Most notably, findings from research in urban China show that daughters now provide more financial support to their parents than sons do, suggesting that daughters are playing an increasingly important role in supporting the elderly in contemporary China. The urban_rural differences in the gendered pattern of intergenerational financial transfer suggest that economic factors may play an important role in changing the traditional family practice in mainland China.

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Monica Dowling

Chapter 19 studies international adoption from China. Since China introduced its one-child policy in 1979, at least 150 000 children, mostly girls, have left China through international adoption. For ten years between 1995 and 2005, China was one of the major countries from which children were adopted overseas. This chapter examines how particular aspects of globalization _ that is, worldwide communication, the influence of international organizations, and economic inequalities in China _ have continued to influence international adoption from China. It examines the factors that have contributed to the outcomes for Chinese adoptees and their adoptive parents, and for international non-government organizations and their staff based in China. She also explores cultural and historical attitudes toward population growth, child abandonment, and adoption, and reflects on how China’s social, economic, and welfare policies have affected policies and practices concerned with ‘the best interests of the child’ in relation to international adoption and those left behind in state care in China.

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Edited by Xiaowei Zang and Lucy X. Zhao

This Handbook advances research on the family and marriage in China by providing readers with a multidisciplinary and multifaceted coverage of major issues in one single volume. It addresses the major conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues of marriage and family in China and offers critical reflections on both the history and likely progression of the field.
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Jiping Zuo

Chapter 20 examines marital construction of family decision-making power in China. In Western literature, family decision-making power is widely seen as a strong indication of one’s family status. Women are perceived as the powerless gender, given the predominance of the patriarchal family structure in world history. Therefore, women must increase their family decision-making power in order to raise their family status. Research on family patriarchy in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in past decades has challenged this conventional wisdom in several ways. The author shows that since the 1990s, joint decision-making on major family affairs has been not only the most common but also the most preferred pattern among married couples. Women are often found to have greater power in routine financial management than men, but they do not necessarily consider it an indication of their increased family status. Many women and men exercise family power to serve the family interest, sometimes at the expense of their own well-being. Even in pre-1949 China, married women became powerful patriarchs as they acquired mother-in-law status in a multigenerational patriarchal household, reversing their subordinate status as daughters-in-law. In addition, existing research on contemporary Chinese societies shows rural_urban differences and differences between genders in subjective evaluations of family power. The above patterns render Western theories and methods inadequate when applied to Chinese situations, which are characterized by collective family settings rooted in an agrarian economy and Confucius ethics, and modified by changing historical circumstances.

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Xiaohe Xu and Donna Miller

Chapter 21 examines marital instability in post-1978 China. Since the 1990s, a growing body of research on marital instability, including divorce, in the People’s Republic of China has emerged. To synthesize this burgeoning body of research, this chapter develops five central themes drawn from empirical studies conducted in the reform and post-reform eras. These themes are: (1) gender thesis; (2) resource thesis; (3) cultural-political thesis; (4) life-course thesis; and (5) psychological thesis. This chapter shows how individual characteristics, family backgrounds, and dyadic similarities and disparities (homogamy/heterogamy) and interactions are linked with marital dissatisfaction, marital conflict, and divorce among married Chinese respondents.

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Jie Zhang

Chapter 22 discusses suicides among married women in rural China. The Chinese suicide rates used to be among the highest in the world, with about 23 suicide deaths every year for each 100 000 Chinese population. Suicides by young females in rural China contributed substantially to the high rate of suicide and the total number of suicides, given the large number of people in China. Given the traditional familial structure that remains largely intact in rural China, this chapter reports that being married is not a protective factor for suicide in rural China. Fertility events are not related to suicide risk for rural young women. Social support is stronger for unmarried women than for married women, and risk factors tend to be family-related issues. Zhang accounts for rural young women’s suicides in Chinese culture contexts, using Durkheim’s notion of fatalistic suicide and the ‘strain theory of suicide’.

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Kwok-fai Ting

Chapter 26 argues that the family played a crucial role in buffering risks and social problems that came with social transformation in Hong Kong. The utilitarianistic aspect of traditional familism was emphasized in the course of Hong Kong’s industrialization, helping families to consolidate resources to cope with market uncertainties. Equally important, the British colonial government had little intention of altering the Chinese way of life other than by maintaining law and order in the territory, helping Hong Kong to preserve much of its cultural heritage. Thus, although Western values and lifestyles have been introduced to Hong Kong, some traditional Chinese customs have persisted. This chapter then traces marriage statistics back to the reconstruction period immediately after World War II, in an attempt to establish a long-term view on marriage behavior since 1945. Next, it shows that the demographic factor has only a marginal effect on marriage timing. Poverty resulted in deferred marriage plans, and raised unmarried rates, particularly among men because of their breadwinner role, in pre-industrialized Hong Kong. However, prosperity since the 1990s did not lead to early marriage and lower unmarried rates, suggesting that income is not the only major factor at play. Higher expectations on wedding arrangements and accommodation after marriage do not adequately explain the recent surge in unmarried rates, as materialistic demands may delay but not deter marriage. The expansion of education, particularly at the tertiary level, may lead to the postponement of marriage, but it is also possible that the high unmarried rates may indicate greater difficulties for educated women to find a matching partner because of the persistence of hypergamy. Career ambition among young women may not explain the high unmarried rates since the millennium, because there were simply not enough high-paying jobs for women before the 1990s to distract them from pursuing a marriage and ending up being single in their late forties.