Identity and Behaviour
Drawing upon qualitative data from a project on ageing in rural China, this chapter examines the experiences of older people and their families in responding to geographical separation resulting from the migration of the younger generation to the cities. It aims to contribute to our understanding of rural ageing in the following two aspects. First, it incorporates the recent move in Chinese social policies for rural villages (including pilot pension and medical care schemes), and explores the interaction between the State and the existing familial support systems. It reveals that the current welfare regime in rural China is deeply embedded in a familial ideology, with the State (directly or indirectly) relying upon individual households to fulfil many of the care and financial responsibilities associated with government welfare provision. Second, this chapter draws attention to more nuanced dynamics within the family. Contrary to the image of a ‘burden’ to their families, older people are active support providers to their children. Yet the role of gender in intra-household power relations has meant that older rural women carry a disproportionate part of the responsibility for grandchild care and family farming as a result of their adult children’s migration to the cities.