Privatization of Marriage in Post-Socialist China

Publication Date: 
June 2014
Modern China June 4, 2014, 0097700414536528

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Over the past three decades, a distinctly post-socialist form of marriage with high rates of divorce as well as rising rates of marriage and remarriage has emerged as the result of a “triple turn” by the party-state in regard to the institution of marriage: a “turn toward” marriage as a voluntary contract, a “turn away” from close surveillance of sexual relationships, and a “turn away” from protection of communal property. The one-child policy runs against these three prevailing “turns” toward privatization, but to date this contradiction has been muted by a de facto distinction between (strong) control over reproduction and (weak) control over sexual relationships. Moreover, as illustrated here through close analysis of three recent interpretations 解释 of the Supreme People’s Court and interviews with ordinary citizens in Guangzhou and Shanghai, by continuing to extend the logic of voluntary contract to intimate relationships, the party-state’s own actions (and inaction) serve to accelerate privatization of marriage in post-socialist China.

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