Governing Chinas Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics

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While forcible abduction does take place, usually girls are lured or purchased from their families in poor areas, promised jobs, and then transported long distances to villages where they are bought by poor men. Despite the efforts of government agencies and women's groups to stop this kind of trafficking, escape from these often abusive situations is generally difficult because the "outside brides" are cut off from their families, and village society supports the husbands.

In this scenario, both parties lose: women are trapped, and the men often end up feeling cheated of what they rightfully "own. Some have suggested that they will become roving bands of hooligans, others that they will join the army, promoting a more bellicose and aggressive China.

These speculations of a more violent future, based on historical analogies from the late imperial period, seem misguided.

Susan Greenhalgh 葛苏珊

More likely, the solutions will be more peaceful, if difficult. For example, unmarried men may live with their adult brothers or sisters, or they may form communities of their own in which new mutual support groups develop, or they may rely on prostitutes for sexual release. However this plays out, change will be difficult and will involve wrenching transformations in one of the most fundamental institutions of Chinese society.

As the social problems stemming from the gender imbalance continue to mount, China's leaders will most certainly abandon the one-child policy. Already that policy, combined with the economic pressures associated with China's rapid development, has led fertility to fall to historic lows. Today the average number of children per woman is 1.

Susan Greenhalgh, Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China

Today many Chinese scholars are lobbying the government to relax the one-child policy, and we can predict with some certainty that within 15 to 20 years China's leaders will succumb to social pressure and abandon the one-child policy. If Chinese policymaking history is any guide, they will move gradually, first shifting to a policy of two children for all and later eliminating all limits on childbearing.


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This policy shift will be good for reproductive rights, but will it restore a more normal gender ratio at birth, about boys to girls? Unfortunately, the answer is no. For despite the continued existence of the one-child policy, increasingly people's childbearing is responding to the "invisible hand of the market," not government policy.


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Increasingly it is not the one-child policy, but rather entrenched gender discrimination in the wider economy, society and culture that lies behind the stubborn preference for sons among some groups. So are there other policy instruments the government can use to encourage people to want daughters? The answer is yes, but such measures are often difficult to institute, and their effectiveness remains unclear.

In recent years, China's government has been actively trying to enhance the well-being of girls and women with measures such as the "Action to Foster Girls" and a series of measures to promote women's all-round "human development.


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In the meantime, perhaps for decades, China will have to make do with fewer females. While some of the shortage can be made up by importing women from abroad, the major challenge China's government faces is to openly acknowledge the gender ramifications of the one-child policy. Thus far, the government has not done so. Instead of waiting for social problems to become social crises, the government must anticipate how the gender gap will play out in the society, economy and political system and find ways to help people adapt in the least disruptive ways possible.

When the "Little Emperors" Become the Nation's Leaders China's one-child policy aimed not only to lower the birth rate, but also to create a new generation of "quality" singletons equipped to lead the country to a prosperous future. State and parental efforts to nurture this new generation have combined with an exploding commodity culture to produce the most materially and educationally privileged generation of young people in Chinese history. Yet the social and psychological costs have been steep.

The focus of intense societal and familial attention, today's single children have become "little emperors" and "little empresses" -- talented and savvy, but also spoiled and self-centered. As the preferred gender, boys seem to have developed a strong sense of entitlement. Feeling entitled to their privileges and empowered by their parents' dependence on them for future support, some have taken youth rebellion to extremes.

Although rare, there have been instances of children not just talking back to their parents, but striking and even murdering them for such perceived injustices as getting their dinner on the table late. Governing China's Population tells the story of these shifts, from the perspectives of both regime and society, based on internal documents, long-term fieldwork, and interviews with a wide range of actors policymakers and implementers, propagandists and critics, compliers and resisters. This study also illuminates the far-reaching consequences for China's society and politics of deep state intrusion in individual reproduction.

Like Mao's Great Leap Forward, Deng's one-child policy has created vast social suffering and human trauma. Yet power over population has also been positive and productive, promoting China's global rise by creating new kinds of "quality" persons equipped to succeed in the world economy. Politically, the PRC's population project has strengthened the regime and created a whole new field of biopolitics centering on the production and cultivation of life itself.

Drawing on approaches from political science and anthropology that are rarely combined, this book develops a new kind of interdisciplinary inquiry that expands the domain of the political in provocative ways. The book provides fresh answers to broad questions about China's Leninist transition, regime capacity, "science" and "democracy," and the changing shape of Chinese modernity. Problematique Governmentalization of Population. Policy Formulation and Implementation.

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Ally Recruitment in Beijing 8. Scientific Policymaking in Zhongnanhai 9. Books Digital Products Journals. Disciplines Anthropology Cultural Anthropology Asian. About the Book China's one-child rule is unassailably one of the most controversial social policies of all time. Just One Child is a bold, brilliant book that deserves to be read by all those interested in science and technology studies, and not just those who specialize in China or in the human sciences.

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‘We need a planetary one-child policy’

As a study of scientific policy-making in China, Just One Child is without peer. This book is an admirable leap towards that goal. Written in a very organized and highly readable style, this book would. But to say only this would obscure the often gripping and intricate story of Chinese expert politics, where rocket scientists seized the initiative in defining historic demographic policy.

Only a master ethnographer like Greenhalgh could capture it all.

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