A Comparative Analysis of Fertility Preferences
Edited by Stuart Gietel-Basten, John Casterline and Minja K. Choe
Chapter 24 provides an overview of secondary scholarship on gender non-conformity in Chinese culture and proposes three theoretical rubrics for imagining what we may call ‘transgender Chinese studies’. It points out that because transgender studies is enabled and complicated by the indeterminacy of such key concepts as gender, sexuality, and transgender, the study of transgender China points to different possibilities of transforming the field vis-à-vis the very reorientations of these concepts. This chapter argues that in the twenty-first century, the issue of kinship and the state sanction of queer unions have taken Chinese societies by storm. The imaginations of transgender China hold at least two significant implications for contemporary understandings of marriage, the family, and kinship. First, an individual’s decision to undergo gender transitioning often involves tacit and cautious negotiations with immediate family members. Such a decision has profound effects on the daily routines of relatives. Second, the right of transgender individuals to marry in their acquired gender rather than their biological sex at birth has formed the basis of several legal battles in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the People’s Republic of China. The present juncture should allow both gay and lesbian groups and transgender groups to fight together for a radical expansion and reorientation of the meanings of civil union and kinship, given their shared history of social oppression.
Xiaowei Zang and Lucy Xia Zhao
The study of the family and marriage in China is interesting given profound changes in fertility transition, household structure, mate selection, divorce, old age support, and so on, since the nineteenth century. This chapter first reviews the English literature on a few selected aspects of the family institution and marriage in China. Next, it summarizes the outline of each of the chapters, which discuss a wide range of topics including love and marriage, educational endogamy, family planning, son preference, the marriage squeeze, family decision-making power, filial piety and old age support, intermarriage and intercultural dating, international adoption from mainland China, and many more.
Shuzhuo Li, Quanbao Jiang and Marcus Feldman
Chapter 9 examines son preference and its effect on the male marriage squeeze in China. The authors first review the rural_urban and parity differences and the recent trend in China’s sex ratio at birth (SRB). They also introduce an estimate of China’s missing girls and investigate the male marriage squeeze together with the projected number of surplus males in the marriage market. Next, they discuss a number of issues related to marriage squeeze in China, including the increase in bride price and wedding expenses, increased bargaining power of females in the marriage market, female marriage migration, and bare branch villages. Their empirical study is supported by rich data from China.
Chapter 14 reviews the literature on parental investment in children’s human capital in China. The range of human capital can be very broad. This chapter focuses on formal education, that is, schooling in the government educational system. It identifies 11 important subjects in the literature and divide the literature into 11 categories based on the research focus of the studies. Specifically, categories 1_7 pertain to household characteristics and discuss how these household factors affect parental investment in children’s human capital and cause educational inequality. Policy changes that affect households (such as the Compulsory Education Law and the one-child policy) are also discussed. Categories 8_10 pertain to outside factors and examine how these outside factors affect parental investment in children’s human capital and cause educational inequality. Category 11 discusses the target of parental investment and its consequences. Finally, Lee discusses some issues when applying these accounts for future research on human capital investment on children in China.
Chinese society, as elsewhere, has constructed an often uneasy arrangement between the forces of passionate love, comfort love, and sexual desire. This arrangement requires continuous adjustment at the individual and societal level. The competing push and pull of feeling states and values common to the domains of love and sexual desire are seldom stable. This ensures that every generation will revisit, if not renegotiate, and thus modify the conventional explanation of how best to merge and thus integrate the pull toward emotional exclusiveness found in the impulse for love, with an equally powerful concern for social and economic practicality. This, then, is the chapter’s central focus: to probe assessment of research findings as they pertain to changes found in mate selection criteria, competing rationales, and social negotiations, voiced and unvoiced within the context of courtship and dating, that range from stark materialistic displays to private yearnings about the value of intimacy, and how the weight given that value has come to define what it means to have a satisfactory marriage.
Jing Song and Lulu Li
Chapter 5 studies mate selection in rural China, stressing local variations, temporal change, and persisting patterns. It reviews three aspects of scholarship on mate selection in rural China: courtship and marriage formation, mate selection preferences, and mate selection markets. Although modernity and individuality are a general trend governing these three aspects, the persistence and revival of patriarchy and gender hierarchy are also evident. In the post-1978 era, market expansion and policy changes have led mate selection trends in different directions, such as increasing ‘girl power’, reinforcing status homogamy, and intensifying the marriage squeeze. Some policy outcomes were unexpected, due to the complicated interaction of family structures, market forces, political factors, and gender norms. For rural people, marriage is not only increasingly entrenched with emotion and affection, but also an institution of status match.
Lisa Eklund and Isabelle Attané
Chapter 10 reviews existing studies on mate selection in China in the context of a marriage squeeze, identifying different theoretical perspectives on sex ratios and mate selection. It deploys three theoretical lenses in analysing and furthering the understanding of how sex ratio imbalance and subsequent marriage squeezes impact upon mate selection: the demographic opportunity thesis, the sex ratio theory, and the institutional approach. They centre around three main themes of: (1) mate selection for marriage purposes; (2) non-marital mate selection; and (3) strategies that men subject to a marriage squeeze deploy, as well as some consequences of these strategies. It suggests that scholars can merge the sex ratio theory with an institutional approach to understand the marriage squeeze and mate selection in China. For example, the sex ratio theory posits that in high sex ratio societies, norms surrounding family and marriage are becoming more conservative and male-centric, and norms governing women’s sexuality and behaviour are becoming more controlling due to men’s structural power. Therefore, in the absence of a marriage squeeze, and a growing concern of being subject to one, it is possible that there would have been a reduction in marriage rates, a further delay in marriage, even higher divorce rates, and possibly more liberated sexual behavior than is currently the case, even though as demonstrated here there is a positive relation between sex ratios and premarital and multi-partnered sex among women. This argument is possibly a potential reason for Chinese marriage rates and age at first marriage not following similar patterns to other low-fertility countries in East Asia.
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.
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’.