Journal of International Affairs

The Andrew Wellington Cordier Essay: Women and the State in Post-1949 Rural China

By Kellee S. Tsai 1

"In old China, women were bound up by the shackles of power in politics, clan, husband and religion. They were kept at the bottom of society. Women were liberated after the birth of New China in 1949." 2

Huang Qizao, Sichuan Province NPC Deputy, Vice President and First Member of the Secretariat of the All-China Women's Federation

The irony of Beijing's recent hosting of the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women was apparent to many observers, but not to the Chinese government and perhaps a few ideological holdovers in former socialist countries. 3 Revolutionary regimes inspired by Marxist theory during the first half of the twentieth century recognized the liberation of women as a key component of transition to socialism. 4 Upon the Communist political victory, women were granted full legal rights and mobilized to participate in production. Meanwhile, the authoritarian nature of the socialist state demonstrated command capacity to transform the structure of economic and social relations. Yet after several decades of Communist governance, gender gaps in political and socioeconomic indicators remain salient.

By focusing on the position of women in post-1949 rural China, this study seeks to shed light on the persistence of gender inequalities in socialist countries despite their ideological commitment to the emancipation of women. Analysis of this paradox raises two broader issues concerning the relationship between the state and women: i) state capacity to implement its developmental strategy; and ii) the sources of gender biases. Accordingly, the first section of this analysis proposes a synthesis of state-centered and women-in-development (WID) theories for explaining gender inequalities under socialism. While a state's ideology and mode of production may have a substantial impact on the definition of gender, I will argue that the endurance of gender inequalities suggests the centrality of patriarchy as a socially-constructed system; and that the institutional dynamics of patriarchy may survive changes in particular political orientations or economic modes precisely because they are deeply embedded in the very efforts themselves. The bulk of this paper therefore examines the position of women in rural China in both the Mao and post-Mao reform periods. The third part analyzes the relative impact of the state and the household in reinforcing gender biases; and the final section offers theoretical implications.

Theoretical Context  

Despite their efforts to conceptualize gendered distributional asymmetries, individually, neither standard political science nor WID frameworks can explain the persistence of gender inequalities in socialist countries. Conventional theories of the state may be employed to demonstrate the limits of state capacity for implementing policies beneficial to women, but they are not concerned with the sources of gender biases. WID theories in the liberal tradition generally focus on the effects of capitalist development on women. 5 Similarly, Marxist and neo-Marxist explanations of gender inequality point to the oppressive structures of capitalism. 6 Nonetheless, valuable concepts may be extracted from them for framing the present analysis.

First, the state is a significant actor. In socialist countries, the Communist party-dominated state formulates developmental policies that affect the structure of economic and social relations. However, the Party-state's institutional capacity for policy implementation should not be assumed despite its apparent strength. 7 As more contemporary theorists of the state point out, state autonomy is neither a zero-sum function of power relative to society nor is it an isolated determinant of capacity. 8 To elucidate the state's relative effectiveness, the relationship between state and society may thus be analyzed as a series of linkages between policy elites, central and local authorities, local and village cadres, and cadres and households, which in turn are influenced by the interactions within each level. 9 It is also important to consider the role of informal actors and organizational structures relative to that of formal institutions and ideology in policy implementation. The operational tasks at this level are to examine the following: i) state developmental policies relating to women; ii) the relationship between the state and societal institutions that directly involve women, particularly, the household unit and; as a result, iii) the relative impact of state policy on society in general and women in particular. Most state-society and WID theorists confine their debate to these considerations. They offer varying interpretations of the extent to which state policy reflects or shapes the interests of society, and evaluate the effectiveness of state action.

Acknowledging that the state has an impact on the household as a component of society provides a base for explaining gender inequalities. To the extent that the household or family represents the most fundamental sphere of interaction between women and men, and hence, the most fundamental unit of society, 10 it is relevant to bridge the gap between state policies and the household. Furthermore, the liberal and Marxist feminist approaches offer insight on the specific consequences of economic development on the sexual division of labor and other gender-differentiated indicators. 11 They do not, however, explain the discrepancy between the relative success of socialist countries in transforming other social relations and their failure to eradicate biases against women. These theories generally assume capitalist development. 12 Still, these frameworks can be tested by the experience of socialist countries that have embarked on market-oriented reforms. With the decreased reliance on Marx-Engels ideology, are gender inequalities exacerbated as Marxists would expect? Do they take on a different character? Or does the position of women improve as a by-product of reform, thereby broadly confirming liberal hypotheses? 13 Given that the latter situation has yet to be evidenced, additional analysis is warranted.

In order to explicate the endurance of gender inequalities, it is necessary to go beyond fundamentally state-centered perspectives. State and economic policies alone cannot account for gender differentiation. An additional structural variable, as socialist feminists point out, is the institutionalization of patriarchal norms. 14 Although the state represents the most salient patriarchal institution within national boundaries, the definition of gender as a social construction implicates a broader range of sources in perpetuating biases. In other words, accepting that gender identities are not innate, but learned through social and cultural interactions, 15 means that the household plays an equally powerful if not greater role in this context. Marx and Engels viewed the state and the household as the primary institutions that embody class antagonisms in society. The socialist feminist formulation of class and gender struggle derives from this argument. But recognizing the household as an oppressive institution and gender norms as a social construction does not require embracing the historical materialism of Marxist paradigms. Arguably, the class element of socialist feminist theory obscures its most important contribution: patriarchy as an institution. The reductionism of class analysis restricts its ability to delineate the expression of patriarchy in other terms that may be more appropriate for gender analysis. As Catharine MacKinnon, a feminist legal scholar observes, "Method shapes each theory's vision of social reality. It identifies its central problem, group and process, and creates as a consequence its distinctive conception of politics as such." 16 The challenge for feminist theory, therefore, is "to demonstrate that feminism systematically converges upon a central explanation of sex inequality through an approach distinctive to its subject yet applicable to the whole of social life, including class." 17 A fundamental premise is the recognition of patriarchy as a socially determined system that exists within and beyond state, economic and societal structures. This assumption does not preclude materialist approaches. Rather, it adds depth to the analysis by identifying the sources of gender norms and exploring their interaction.

The persistence of gender inequalities in socialist countries may thus be seen as deriving from the relationship between the primary instruments of patriarchy: the state and the household. That is, gender norms are constructed and realized at both levels in a mutually reinforcing manner. Operationally, this entails examination of the state and the household as interactive, rather than parallel institutions in generating, perpetuating and actualizing gender biases. This approach seeks to expand the definitional boundaries of state and society in mainstream discourse by focusing on the structural oppression of actors whose "interests" remain unarticulated by class, civil society 18 or the state. The dynamics and consequences of patriarchy in post-1949 rural China are presented in next section.

The State and Women in Post-1949 Rural China  

Ideology and Post-Revolutionary Strategy  

The Russian experience in implementing a communist revolution in general, and the liberation of women as a component of the process, served as a model for the Chinese Communists throughout the revolutionary period. Both the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mobilized the most oppressed groups in society, namely peasants and women, to serve as the revolutionary base. While women were not considered a distinct class, their oppression symbolized the dynamics of class struggle. Under Lenin, the Soviet Union enacted significant legislation to liberate women from "bourgeois feudalism" and integrate them into the continuing revolutionary process. Following victory in 1949, the CCP similarly launched a number of policies and programs to promote gender equality. 19

First, the CCP legally stipulated the equality of women as full citizens in the 1949 People's Republic of China (PRC) Constitution. The 1950 Marriage Law legalized marriage, denounced patriarchal authority in the household and granted both sexes equal rights to file for divorce. 20 The second and most prominent element of the strategy was integrating women into economic development. Women's employment was viewed as a prerequisite for emancipation from bourgeois structures as embodied in the patriarchal family. 21 Furthermore, at the core of the CCP's strategy for political consolidation was economic reconstruction and rural development. The full participation of women was not only an ideological imperative but a pragmatic one. Third, the All-China Women's Federation (W.F.) was established by the CCP to mobilize women for economic development and social reform. 22 The First Congress of the W.F. in 1949 highlighted the following areas for the active participation of women: land reform, marriage law campaigns, political study and agricultural development. The fourth objective -- ideological redefinition of gender relations -- quickly proved to be the area most resistant to the influence of mass campaigns. Although stories of revolutionary heroines and slogans proclaiming the equality of women were well-known, traditional Confucian beliefs about gender roles retained a stronghold, particularly in rural China.

The above strategy for achieving gender equality was pursued broadly throughout Mao's tenure, though official policy on women has varied with the direction of general political and economic priorities. In addition, initiatives that would appear to benefit women encountered obstacles in implementation; and as suggested by WID theorists, broader developmental efforts have yielded mixed results for the overall position of women. As discussed next, state policies that have had direct impact on the household include the following: i) land reform and marriage laws; ii) collectivization and communization; and iii) post-Mao reform, including the household responsibility system and family planning policies.

Early Mao: Land Reform and Marriage Laws 

Women's participation was considered integral to the success of the land reform and marriage law campaigns during the early 1950s. 23 The party actively recruited rural female cadres and encouraged the proliferation of women's organizations. Both campaigns intended to destroy feudalistic institutions and practices, which included, respectively, the traditional extended family and the most blatant abuses against women (footbinding, polygamy, concubinage, child brides and dowry payments).

Land reform succeeded in eliminating the extended family's material basis and hence, its potential for posing as a political threat to the regime. Small-plots were redistributed to each family member regardless of age or sex; and land reform provisions stipulated that property would be equally divided in the case of divorce. Nonetheless, land allotted to women was effectively controlled by their husbands. Patriarchal familial relationships in the Confucian tradition seemed to remain intact. 24

At the same time, the new marriage laws generated much controversy. During the first five years, over 500,000 women filed for divorces annually. 25 Male peasants threatened female cadres attempting to enforce the divorce provisions, while mothers-in-law sought to preserve their status over daughters-in-law in the traditional, extended family structure. Some women even committed suicide to protest the refusal of their husbands and male cadres to comply with the new law. In 1953, the National Committee for Thorough Implementation reported that over 75,000 deaths or suicides annually could be attributed to marriage differences and unsuccessful implementation. 26 The difficulties encountered in enforcement revealed not only the depth of tradition, 27 but also the institutional deficiencies in rural China for their acceptance. The traditional family system served important functions for which the Party-state did not offer alternatives. Families ensured the provision of old-age security, child care and medical facilities.

Collectivization and Communization 

After only two years of agricultural production based on small family-owned plots, the Central Committee decided that accelerated agricultural growth was necessary to fuel industrialization. The resulting nationwide collectivization drive from 1955 to 1956 aimed to abolish private land ownership. Ninety percent of rural society was restructured into cooperative farms (or collectives) where members received compensation according to the socialist principle of "each according to his labor." 28 Legislation relating to collectivization contained provisions emphasizing the importance of female employment in rural cooperatives. 29 In addition, propaganda went beyond encouragement of women's economic participation and explicitly linked their liberation with the structural implications of collectivization. Shortly after CCP approval of the shift to collectivization, Remin Ribao  (People's Daily)  quoted Engels' contention that the emancipation of women requires participation in social labor and "to achieve this, individual families are no longer required to be units of the social economy." 30 The establishment of cooperatives effectively separated production from the household and provided women with a wider range of employment opportunities.

However, the employment of women in rural cooperatives posed a strain on their provision of domestic services. To a limited degree, older women were mobilized to handle childcare and other household responsibilities. But domestic services were not fully collectivized. 31 Continued responsibility for housework and official employment meant that women were not able to earn as many work points as their male counterparts. The resulting dual burden was not only recognized, but justified by the Remin Ribao : "Participation in agricultural production is the inherent right and duty of rural women. Giving birth to children and raising them, as well as preoccupation with household chores are also the obligations of rural women. These things set women apart from men." 32 In rural China, as in other rural societies, the dual burden itself was certainly not a new phenomenon for peasant women. But the specific socialist ideology of "each according to his labor" drew attention to the gender gap in wages; and the state ultimately sanctioned traditional norms regarding the sexual division of labor in the household.

By 1958, Mao declared that China had completed the transition to socialism and was prepared to make a great leap forward in the "transition from socialism to communism." The people's commune was identified as a new form of social organization to complete the revolution. Communization proceeded rapidly: Within one year over ninety percent of peasant households -- briefly organized in cooperatives -- were amalgamated into communes. 33

At the same time, peasants, including over 300 million women, were mobilized into production brigades. The demand for full-time female labor in the agricultural sector led to the creation of communal mess halls and nurseries, which were primarily staffed by older women. One source estimates that by 1959 there were nearly 5 million nurseries and 3.6 million public dining rooms in rural areas. 34

Despite increased communization of domestic services, women continued to earn approximately one-half to one-third fewer workpoints than men. The gender gap in compensation was excused as reflecting the amount of physical energy expended. Hence, activities performed by men were considered "heavy" while women's work was "light." 35 As illustrated in Table 1, the "lighter" work was not necessarily less physically demanding.

Table 1: Division of Labor on Communes, 1956 and 1977
Men Women
1956: Rice, Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Wheat
Heavy work (plowing, carrying heavy loads)

Irrigation, fostering well-grown seedlings

Tilling rape fields

Subsidiary occupations

Lighter Work

Preparing ash compost

Harvesting rape

Growing early crops

1977: Double Rice Cropping, Winter Wheat
Plowing with water buffalo

Carrying water

Driving tractors

Rural industries

Sowing seed

Transplanting rice seedlings


Carrying manure to the fields

Raising pigs

Sources: Foreign Languages Press, The Upsurge of Socialism in the Countryside  (Beijing: FPL) p. 289; in Elisabeth Croll, "Jiang Village: A Household Survey," China Quarterly  , 72 (1977) p. 805.

Furthermore, in regions where non-agricultural employment opportunities were available, women performed a wider range of agricultural tasks as men pursued other forms of work. 36 A government document in 1958 indicated that women would be expected to compensate for the shortage of labor in agriculture caused by male employment in newer industries:

Women should shoulder agricultural production. Men's labor power is needed to open mines, expand machine building industry, power plants, cement plants. Generally speaking, these departments of industry employ mainly men laborers and provide only a few types of work that can be undertaken by women workers. Thus, up to a certain stage in the development of socialist construction, agricultural production will have to be undertaken mainly by women. 37

As such, the percentage of peasant women engaged in non-domestic production increased rapidly -- from 50 to nearly 90 percent during the first decade of socialist rule. 38 Nonetheless, large-scale employment in agricultural production did not indicate equality. It increased the demands on rural women without commensurate wage compensation. While the policy of "equal pay for equal work" was actively promoted, as shown above, the household and agricultural tasks performed by women were valued less than those performed by men. In villages where women performed the same work alongside men, or replaced the work of men, male peasants protested and prevented the equal allocation of work points. 39 They demanded greater compensation as a structural requirement: As heads of households they needed to contribute more than women to the family budget. 40 The relative decrease in the sexual division of labor in agriculture did not restructure the sexual division of authority or labor in the patriarchal household. Furthermore, by the 1960s, the financial cost of maintaining the communal facilities was considered too high when the services could be performed within the household by women for "free." 41

As in other socialist countries, 42 the incorporation of women into the public production was not matched by comparable levels of political participation. This asymmetry was not a calculated outcome of state policy. Numerous campaigns encouraged women to join decision-making bodies, particularly during the 1970s. Special education courses were established to train female party cadres and educate women in the Thought of Mao Zedong; and women's guidance teams were formed in each brigade, down to the smallest village unit. 43 While there was incremental growth in the political participation of women, they were better represented among production cadres than in higher levels of the Party-state apparatus. For example, between 1965 and 1973 the percentage of women in the Central Committee increased from eight to thirteen percent, 44 while women generally accounted for twenty to thirty percent of rural cadres during the same period, with slight provincial variations. 45 But ultimately, the dual-burden of women's work played a key role in limiting their incentive to participate in political activity. This was particularly evident during the Cultural Revolution when political study sessions were held each evening. 46 Most women were simply too busy with farm work, housework and two hours of Mao Zedong Thought to contemplate additional political responsibilities.

Post-Mao Reform: Household Responsibility System and Family Planning Policy 

Following Mao's death in 1976, the rural sector was targeted as one of the Four Modernizations in the developmental strategy promoted by the Hua Guofeng-Deng Xiaoping coalition. By the early 1980s, the reforms had effectively transformed the political economic structure of rural China, with contradictory implications for the relationships between the party-state and villages, rural cadres and the household, and women and men. On the one hand, central bureaucracies relinquished their control over the agricultural sector. Under the household responsibility system (HRS), communal arrangements were replaced by the household as the primary unit of production to increase incentives for output. 47 On the other hand, the state asserted control over the reproductive process to ensure sustainable growth. Both of these developments have directly affected the nature of gender relations within and beyond the peasant household.

The HRS decentralized rural production by transferring decision-making power over the allocation of land and labor resources to the household. Whereas production teams formerly determined the distribution of agricultural tasks and the means to fulfill output quotas, now the head of the household possesses that authority. In rural areas with fewer men and more female-headed households, women have significantly higher rates of labor force participation than in areas with more male-headed households. 48 This is consistent with the observation that decommunization has increased the "dual burden" and reduced the visibility of women's work. 49 Instead of working in the fields with the rest of the production team, women are more likely to engage in domestic work and cultivate household plots, while men seek employment in rural industry. 50

Furthermore, just as official statements during the Great Leap Forward advocated a greater role for women in agricultural production to increase the pool of manpower for industrialization, the post-Mao regime has encouraged women's activity in domestic sideline production. Unlike small-scale commodity production, domestic sidelines "serve the public interest by using only spare household time and labor," that is, the work of women. 51 Domestic sideline production includes household production of food, handicraft goods, plastic or silk flowers, embroidery and knitting. More importantly, they represent income-generating opportunities for women. Initially, the products were primarily sold in local peasant markets, but it quickly became apparent that the quality and aggregate volume of output would be suitable for exports as well. 52 The government has thus instituted many incentives for domestic sideline production, which has increased the portion of peasant household incomes generated from such work. For example, one survey of 15,914 rural households revealed that total income from domestic sidelines in 1980 had increased by over one-third since 1979. 53 In some areas, nearly 75 percent of peasant women are involved in weaving, embroidery and other handicraft activities alongside farm work. 54 Of particular interest, a 1987 survey of the 34 million specialized rural households in the Sichuan province found that female-headed households had a higher annual income than male-headed households: 882 yuan as compared to 712 yuan. 55

With the increased economic contribution of women to household income through domestic sideline production, liberal and Marxist feminists would expect corresponding increases in decision-making authority. A 1990 survey conducted by the W.F. reveals that 53 percent of the women respondents believe that household decision-making is jointly shared with their husbands. 56 But there is no basis for comparison over time since this was the first survey of its kind (not to mention the validity of official surveys in general). 57 An analytical attempt at deducing the impact of the household responsibility system and increased household income on women's relative "bargaining power" predicts adverse effects. 58 That is, women's control over household "entitlements" is expected to decline as they engage in productive activities in the private, domestic sphere. Elisabeth Croll (1983) similarly expresses skepticism about the degree to which women's increased income will affect intra-household relations of exchange. 59 It is less disputable, however, that community welfare services such as child care and primary health care have returned to the realm of individual households -- adding to the responsibilities of women. 60

Although rural reform has increased the autonomy of the household in economic production, the One-Family, One-Child policy launched in 1979 has turned reproduction into an area of direct state intervention. 61 The new regime under Deng made the neo-Malthusian observation that the economic gains from reform were barely sufficient to accommodate a population of one billion, given the natural population growth rate of 1.26 percent, much less provide a base for advanced industrial development. The One-Family, One-Child campaigns have therefore targeted women to limit their childbearing as a "patriotic duty." 62

The family planning policy is implemented by local units of the W.F., barefoot doctors and health workers who are mainly women. Each family is visited individually by members of the local family planning committee. After the first child, women are awarded a one-child certificate that entitles them to a number of privileges. Standard regulations concerning the type of birth control method employed require IUDs after one child, sterilization after the second one and abortion for unapproved pregnancies.

The policy rests on a coercive system of sanctions and rewards. Economic sanctions include: payment of an "excess child levy" as compensation to the state for the cost of another child to the country; 63 reduction in the family's grain ration (or higher prices) for producing a "surplus" child; limitations on additional land for private plots and the right to collective grain in times of flood and drought; and ineligibility for promotion for four years, demotion, or reduction in wages. 64 Moreover, the offending couple has to bear all expenses for medical care and education of excess children, and "extra" children have the lowest priority in admission to kindergarten, school and medical institutions. In contrast, one-child families are entitled to many privileges including monthly or annual cash subsidies for health or welfare until the child reaches fourteen years of age; and additional private plots from the commune. Single children are entitled to free education, health services, priority in admission to nurseries, schools and hospitals. Parents receive an additional subsidy to their old age pension. 65

The most serious consequence of the family planning drive has been the rise in abortions and female infanticide. The Ministry of Public Health reported that during the five-year period ending in 1984, there were 53 million abortions (equivalent to the population of France). 66 The current figure estimates that one in three pregnancies are terminated by abortions. While official statistics are not available to specify the prevalence of female infanticide, the sex ratio of reported births reveals significant differences in the number of males and females. 67 In five of China's thirty provinces, the sex ratio exceeds 1.20 (120 males to 100 females) and the national average is 1.185. 68 As shown in Table 2, the "official" number of male births per 100 female births has increased since the family planning campaigns were instituted. 69

Table 2: 1978 to 1992 Male Births per 100 Female Births

and Percentage of Unaccounted Female Births

Year Male births per 100 female births % of Unaccounted Females Births*
























Sources: S. Johanson and O. Nygren, "The Missing Girls of China: A New Demographic Trend," Population and Development Review  ,17, no. 1 (March 1991) p. 39; "The Lost Girls," The Economist , (18 September 1993) p. 38; and Yi Zeng, et. al. "Causes and Implications of The Recent Increase in the Reported Sex Ratio at Birth in China," Population and Development Review ,19, no. 2 (June 1993) pp. 283-302.

*Calculated by author based on the natural sex ratio of 1.06, i.e., 106 males per 100 females.

The distorted sex ratios are attributed to abortions, (ultrasounds are used to identify the gender of the fetus); female infanticide through drowning, poisoning or desertion; as well as underregistration of female infants since the PRC birth registration system excludes infants who die within three days of birth.

A less publicized aspect of the family planning policy is its impact on mothers. Delia Davin points out that "Women were traditionally held to be responsible for the sex of their infants and, despite attempts at scientific education, this notion persists." 70

The limited number of opportunities to conceive a son thus increases the pressure on women. There are reports that women who bear girls, or are suspected to be pregnant with girls, have been abused by their husbands and in-laws, and even murdered. 71 However, short of suicide, the emotional and psychological effects of the policy on mothers and their unwanted daughters has yet to be acknowledged.

From its inception the family planning policy has faced particular resistance in the rural areas since it contradicts the economic and cultural incentives of the peasant household to have more than one child. 72 First, under the HRS, peasant incomes rely on the number of workers in the family. Second, a growing proportion of peasant households sell their production on the free market and therefore possess the economic means to finance unauthorized births. Third, for similar motivations, rural women cadres -- the key link in enforcing family planning -- are finding it more rewarding to cultivate their private plots and increase their earnings than to antagonize neighboring peasant families. 73 Fourth, peasant families choose to keep bearing children until they have at least one son. Due to Confucian, patrilineal practices, sons are assigned more economic value. They remain with the family after marriage and are expected to care for their parents in old age; whereas daughters leave the family and incur dowry expenses upon marriage. Although the policy has been more relaxed in rural areas since 1984 -- by permitting peasant families to have more than one child if the first-born is a daughter -- resistance continues. Couples with one son or two daughters often bear more children; and "village leaders conspire with relatives and friends to conceal 'excess' births from higher authorities." 74 At the same time, the coercive presence of the state in regulating reproduction remains apparent as evidenced by the increasing distortion in sex ratios shown above.

While rural households have responded to pressure under the One-Family, One-Child policy by aborting, underreporting, or abandoning their female off-spring, economic reform has revived the commoditization of women and children. There has been a resurgence of abduction and trafficking of peasant women, particularly those between the ages of 16 and 25. 75 They are generally sold into marriage in destitute mountain villages where families cannot afford betrothal gifts and banquets, or kidnapped by gangs and sold into prostitution in urban areas such as the coastal cities and special economic zones where there are fewer men. If the gap in sex ratios continues to expand, or even if they level off at 118 males to 100 females, within one generation the demand for women will probably exacerbate such practices.

Impact and Analysis  

The Impact of the State on Women 

The socialist state has clearly played a significant role in defining gender roles in the economy and society in general. On the basis of standard socio-economic indicators, the gender gap has decreased substantially under communist rule. Even political representation has improved: The percentage of women deputies in the National People's Congress (NPC) has increased from 12 percent in 1954 to 21 percent in 1992, and the proportion of women members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) has grown from 7 to 13 percent during the same period. 76 This is credited to the decline in female illiteracy from over 90 percent in 1949 to 38 percent in 1990. 77 On balance, however, striking gender inequalities remain. Women constitute 70 percent of the 220 million illiterates in China. 78 And political participation at the highest levels is minimal: No women currently sit on the fourteen-member Politburo and the Central Committee is only 5.7 percent women. 79

Despite periodic exaggeration to the contrary, the central government acknowledges that the PRC still faces obstacles before gender equality as envisioned in the socialist ideal can be achieved. 80 Since the United Nations named Beijing as the site of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, apparent efforts to comply with international standards for improving the condition of women have increased. 81 In 1992 the Fifth Session of the Seventh NPC passed the Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests of the PRC, which was drafted with the assistance of W.F. branches throughout the country. The new law stipulates the protection of women's rights in the areas of political representation, education, employment, property rights, personal protection and marriage. 82 And shortly before the conference itself, Beijing announced a five-year plan to improve the status of Chinese women by increasing their access to top government positions, protection from kidnapping and elimination of female infanticide. 83 However, if the results of the first two decades of socialist rule are any indication, gender equality cannot simply be legislated from above. 84

The state's limited success in liberating women resonates in part with the paradoxical effects of state policy in other areas. The mass mobilization strategy for agricultural development, for example, relied on cultivating strong provincial-local and cadre-village linkages. These ties have evolved into local clientelistic networks which circumscribe the central government's relative power over rural society, and reform has reinforced this decentralization. 85 Similarly, much of the continuing gender inequality may be traced to the combination of direct state intervention into the household and the contradictions embedded in state policy. But it is important to distinguish between the sources of contradictions in general developmental policies and those that target gender issues. The socialist state placed higher priority on class struggle over gender struggle during the revolutionary phase, and modernization over continued women's liberation during the post-revolutionary and reform periods. Therefore, the emergence and reinforcement of structural anomalies that inhibit gender equality also reflects the fact that it has not been a central concern. This is apparent in each of the policies that have altered the economic organization of rural society. For comparative purposes, two policies that exemplify this dynamic are discussed from the Maoist and reform periods, respectively.

First, communization of domestic services was only partially implemented during the collective period and then abandoned. Although the sexual division of labor was maintained -- that is, the communal halls were staffed primarily by older women -- it represented public recognition of their value-added. In addition, communization enabled working age women to increase their contribution to agricultural output and participate in political activities. It is worth considering the potential long-term impact of domestic service communization if the state had pursued it as rigorously as collectivization. 86 In terms of agricultural output, the communal form of production was an undeniable failure. Peasants lacked the incentive to maximize their efforts due to ceilings on compensation (grain and work points) and unrealistic quotas imposed from above. 87 Communal domestic facilities were also deemed to be too expensive. But the methodology for calculating their cost is not clear. 88 If economic value were assigned to the "domestic" services rendered, the dual burden might have been alleviated. Perhaps male peasants would be fighting for work point-earning opportunities. The state sanctioned the sexual division of labor in the household and excluded household labor from "each according to his labor."

Second, rural reform transferred the collective's authority over production to the household. A regressive consequence of this reform is the strengthening of patriarchal relations in the household. In other words, with increased decision-making power, the household continues to define gender in traditional terms and value their roles asymmetrically. Moreover, the concentration of economic authority in the family reinforces the material basis of patrilineal culture. The communal structure had weakened practices of village exogamy whereby women are only temporary members of their natal village and upon marriage, join their husbands' villages as outsiders. This tradition limits the incentives for developing women's non-domestic production skills since they are viewed as short-term assets. 89 The payment of bride prices represents the transfer of control over a woman's economic productivity from her parents to her husband's family, with no establishment of in dependent rights to property in either household by the individual woman. 90

Both decommunization of domestic services and the HRS call into question the state's official commitment to liberating women through mass employment. Peasant women were ideologically mobilized to participate in social production, but then relegated to the sphere of the privatized household and informal sector. The state's actual path of development has not only reinforced traditional biases against women, but also obstructed the ability of women to influence their own fates through political participation. 91

The Patriarchal State and Household  

In the broadest terms, the impediments to gender equality in China may be attributed to political and economic inconsistencies and feudalistic tradition. But that diagnosis does not identify its etiology. The relationship is not conceptualized fully. It is not clear whether Chinese tradition fuels counterintuitive policies or the other way around, and indeed, whether one exists without the other. Moreover, the interaction between policy and culture requires specification. As proposed previously, the underlying structure that fuels the endurance of gender inequalities may be traced to patriarchy. The primary institutional expressions of patriarchy are the state and the household. Both embody a male-dominated hierarchy that exercises its authority over women through maintaining the sexual division of labor in productive and reproductive relations. In China, patriarchy has demonstrated resilience to changes in economic structure because the processes of gender norm construction and actualization at the state and the household levels are ultimately mutually reinforcing. The patriarchal family defines and values the productive roles within the household in gender-differentiated terms and reproduces members (assuming non-compliance with the one-child policy) in its likeness. The patriarchal state provides incentives for specific relations of production, including the terms of reproduction, and produces a web of party officials and cadres that reproduce the demands of dominant ideology. As in the process of human reproduction, gender is defined, produced and reproduced by both men and women. But the analogy is misleading. Gender norms are not biologically-determined, but rather socially-constructed and institutionalized through power relations between and within the state and the household.

This is not meant to imply that the state and the household are monolithic agents in an overdetermined system of patriarchy. Although male-domination persists, socialist ideology raised the consciousness of women to the existence of their subordinate social valuation. Women did not receive as many work points as men for comparable labor in the agricultural commune. Women were encouraged to contribute more to farm work so that men could pursue more important forms of production. Women were recruited for political activities but then expected to fulfill their domestic responsibilities and serve the patriarchal interests of the state. In each case there were women who attempted to challenge the privileged status of men. But then there were also women enlisted by the party-state to reorient the terms of equality under socialism. In an ironic recognition of the intersubjective synergy between the patriarchal state and household, Zhongguo Funü (Women of China) wrote the following in response to the resistance of rural women cadres to housework:

Family and state are interdependent and interrelated. For this reason, in China home work and social labor are mutually geared together, and home work is just a part of social labor and plays an important part in socialist construction....If a woman can integrate what little she can do into the great cause of socialist construction and if she has the ideal of working for the happiness of future generations, she would be a noble person, a woman of benefit to the masses, a woman of communist morality. 92

While the articulated interests of women were never a priority, their productive capacity was recognized and molded according to the prevailing patriarchal requirements. The succession of intra-elite power struggles and consequent policy shifts have all produced ideological reverberations that affect gender norms and their institutional reproduction. 93

Conclusion: Theoretical Implications  

Conceptually, reform marked the state's shift from a Marxist feminist to a liberal feminist approach towards women. While the preferred economic systems differ, both frameworks rest on the premise that sexual division of labor will dissipate with the integration of women into the waged labor force and supporting legislation. Under both socialism and market-oriented reform, however, the participation of women in economic production has not eradicated gender inequalities in rural China. As discussed above, constraints exist on the state's ability to command equality; and the commitment to gender equality itself is dubitable in light of the contradictions generated by its developmental priorities. Although the theories are ideal types, China's experience suggests the presence of a deeper source of gender biases than state policies or mode of production; namely, institutionalized patriarchy.

Socialist feminists would expect reform to fortify patriarchy due to its capitalist orientation. A patriarchal sexual division of labor facilitates capital accumulation since women are responsible for domestic and subsistence-level production. 94 As predicted, post-Mao reform has strengthened patriarchal relations. The peasant household has regained control over the sexual division of labor in domestic and non-domestic production. The state exercises patriarchal authority over the productive as well as reproductive capacity of women. But it is ahistorical to associate the institutionalization of patriarchal norms solely with capitalist development. Patriarchy predated socialism, endured under socialism, and reconfigured itself under reform. The socialist state's failure to liberate women reflects the inadequacy of Marx-Engels ideology as a model for feminism. 95 The "first class antagonism" may be between men and women, but the socialist solution is fundamentally class-based and women are not a distinct class. If they were, then capitalism would only be one manifestation of patriarchy instead of the justification for patriarchy. The prescription would be broader yet focused on the interests of women. Ultimately, the particular expressions of patriarchy have changed alongside changes in the relations of production, but the foundation of a male-dominated hierarchy has been preserved. The post-Deng regime may introduce yet another pattern of patriarchy.

This analysis has attempted to highlight the interdependence of the primary patriarchal institutions in society -- the state and the household -- in perpetuating gender inequalities. Further research is required to elucidate the prospects for institutional change; that is, social reconstruction or transformation of patriarchal norms. For example, patriarchy may be bounded by its contradictory effects. Within the next generation the demographic trend of distorted sex ratios and overindulged single children (sons) will have significant repercussions on political, social and economic relations. Meanwhile, a growing proportion of peasant women are engaged in profitable domestic sideline activities while their male counterparts work in urban areas. 96 These women entrepreneurs represent a new strata in rural China, and their relative autonomy has already inspired Women's Federation, and to a lesser degree, non-governmental initiatives to increase their access to credit, information and markets. 97 Such efforts undermine patriarchal authority, and have proven to be powerful means for legitimizing women's work in the informal sector. 98

A basic challenge facing women-in-development theorists is how to conceptualize the adaptability of patriarchy to different political and economic structures. In other words, additional research should build towards a theory of patriarchy. To avoid the determinism of Marxist and cultural frameworks, a comparative approach may yield more progressive insights than country-specific studies. 99 This analysis, for example, starts out by questioning the endurance of gender inequalities under socialist rule and concludes that patriarchy is not so much a function of political economic orientation as it is a system itself. The inquiry is driven by apparent gaps in theory, namely, the inability of either state-centered or WID theories alone to explain the persistence of gender inequalities in socialist countries. I have thus examined some of the concrete sources and manifestations of patriarchy in post-1949 rural China to demonstrate its potential for being more than yet another black-box concept. Without additional empirical corroboration, however, alternative interpretations could also be drawn. The starting point is recognizing that patriarchy remains versatile and intransigent. It is embedded in the institutions of state and society, and is constructed by their interaction.

Note 1: This article is dedicated to the memory of Ann Dunham-Soetoro. I would also like to thank Mark Blyth, Deborah Bräutigam, Laurel Kendall and Andrew J. Nathan for their comments on earlier versions of this paper; they are, of course, absolved from its inadequacies. Back.

Note 2: "Comments On: The Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests," Women of China, in Women's International Network News (win), 19, no. 1 (Winter 1993) p. 53. Huang Qizao is a woman. Back.

Note 3: In this paper, "Communist" refers to the political structures, i.e. party and state, dominated by the Communist Party. "Socialist" refers to the orientation of the regime in practice since socialism is the stage prior to communism in Marxist historical materialism. Back.

Note 4: In 1846 Marx and Engels wrote, "The first division of labor is that between man and woman for child breeding." Engels later added that the "first class antagonism which appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage." Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader, Second Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1978) p. 739. The first quotation is from Marx and Engel's German Ideology (1846); Engels developed the argument more fully in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), (New York: International Publishers, 1972). Back.

Note 5:

5. The classic articulation of liberal WID theory is Ester Boserup, Woman's Role in Economic Development (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1970) pp. 15-80. Boserup contends that the introduction of technology has created and exacerbated gender differences in agricultural production. Subsequent studies that support Boserup's findings include: Ruth Dixon, Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978); Mona Etienne and Eleanor Leacock, eds., Women and Colonialization(New York: Praeger, 1980); and Kathleen Staudt, "Agricultural Gaps: A Case Study of Male Preference in Policy Implementation," Development and Change, 9 (July 1978) pp. 439-58.

Similar dynamics of female marginalization have also been evident in the process of urbanization. For more recent studies, see M.D.R. Evans and Heclo U. Saraiva, "Women's Labour Force Participation and Socioeconomic Development: Influences of Local Context and Individual Characteristics in Brazil," The British Journal of Sociology, 44, no. 1 (March 1993) pp. 25-51; Gay Young, "Gender Inequality and Industrial Development: The Household Connection," Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 24, no. 1 (Spring 1993) pp. 1-20. Back.

Note 6: Marxist and dependency WID theorists view global capitalism as the structural source of women's exploitation. Examples of this perspective include: June Nash and Maria Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, eds., Women, Men and the International Division of Labor (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983); and Heleieth Saffioti, Women in Class Society (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978). They further develop Marx and Engel's association of male domination with the emergence of private property, and argue that gender inequalities are maintained to serve the interests of world capitalist elites. Back.

Note 7: During the Cold War, it was popular to depict Marxist-Leninist regimes as monolithic entities, typically led by personal dictatorship, which penetrated every aspect of social and economic life. The extensive structure of the party-state apparatus and its tyrannical means of social control was equated with command capacity. Back.

Note 8: Peter B. Evans, Dietrich Reuschemeyer and Theda Skocpol, eds. "On the Road Toward a More Adequate Understanding of the State," Bringing the State Back In (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985). One of their central insights is that regardless of a state's original level of autonomy (weakness or strength), "state interventions in socioeconomic life can, over time, lead to a diminution of state autonomy and to a reduction of any capacities the state may have for coherent action," p. 354. For complementary analyses which pay more attention to societal factors in the context of the Third World, see Joel S. Migdal, Atul Kohli and Vivienne Shue, eds., State Power and Social Forces (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994). Back.

Note 9: Vivienne Shue describes this as a "weblike" pattern of relations, as distinguished from the more rigid "honeycomb," that is, cellularized structure of the Marxist-Leninist state. Vivienne Shue, The Reach of the State (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988) pp. 125-152. Back.

Note 10: For insightful critiques of the use of the household as an unit of analysis in neoclassical developmental economics, see for example, Partha Dasgupta, An Inquiry into Well-Being and Destitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995 ) pp. 135-268, pp. 305-70; Naila Kaber, Reversed Realities (New York: Verso, 1994) pp. 95-135; and Caroline O.N. Moser, Gender Planning and Development (New York: Routeledge, 1993) pp. 15-36. Cf. Daisy Dwyer and Judith Bruce, eds., A Home Divided: Women and Income in the Third World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988). Back.

Note 11: Boserup and other liberal feminists note that development reinforces the "dual burden" of women's work that is, waged labor and continued provision of unpaid household services which also increases gender wage differentials. Overall, however, liberal feminists do not question the economic rationale behind development; instead, they advocate the integration of women into the development process by increasing their access to credit, technology and training. Examples include: Marguerite Berger and Mayra Buvinic, Women's Ventures: Assistance to the Informal Sector in Latin America (West Hartford: Kumarian Press, 1989); Barbara Rogers, The Domestication of Women: Discrimination in Developing Societies (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979); and Kate Young, Planning Development with Women (Hong Kong: MacMillan, 1993). Rogers' book has been particularly influential in identifying the sources of discrimination against women in development planning. Back.

Note 12: A notable exception is Barbara Wolfe Jancar, Women Under Communism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978). She posits a "multi-staged evolution of equality" as a function of regime type (highly authoritarian vs. pluralistic) and stage of modernization (early vs. late); but offers a fundamentally liberal modernization conclusion: In pluralistic modernized societies, "sex-role differentiation gradually disappears," pp. 206-13. Back.

Note 13: For what is considered the origin of liberal feminist theory, see John Stuart Mill, On the Subjection of Women (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1970) pp. 91-3. Essentially, legal recognition of women's equality is expected to ameliorate inequality in the household. A more recent discussion is Gay Young, pp. 8-13. The relationship between modernization and peasant family relationships in Europe is analyzed in Louise A. Tilly and Joan W. Scott, Women, Work, and Family (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1978). At the early stages of industrialization, they note that peasant families attempt to retain traditional roles, but then gradually change with increased exposure to new experiences. Back.

Note 14: Socialist feminists extend the Marxist position by highlighting the patriarchal norms embedded in capitalism. Gita Sen and Maria Mies have pioneered the global aspect of this approach. See Gita Sen and Caren Grown, Development, Crises, and Alternative Visions (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1985); and Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale (London: Zed Books, 1986). Other important contributions include: Lourdes Benerìa, ed., Women and Development: The Sexual Division of Labor in Rural Societies (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1982); Annette Kuhn and AnnMarie Wolpe, eds., Feminism and Materialism: Women and Modes of Production (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978); and Jane L. Parpart, ed., Women and Development in Africa: Comparative Perspectives (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989). Back.

Note 15: Socialist feminists draw this notion from the work of feminist anthropologists. In particular, see Nancy Chodorow, "Family Structure and Feminine Personality," and Michelle Rosaldo, "Women, Culture and Society," in Women, Culture and Society eds. Michelle Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974) pp. 44-66, pp. 14-42. Back.

Note 16: Catharine A. MacKinnon, "Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An Agenda for Theory," Signs, 7, no. 3 (Spring 1982) p. 527. Back.

Note 17: MacKinnon, p. 328. MacKinnon proposes consciousness raising as the feminist method. See Catharine A. MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989). Back.

Note 18: Although most definitions of "civil society" exclude the household, note that some would include the "intimate sphere" of the family. For example, see Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato's Habermasian formulation, Civil Society and Political Theory (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992). Back.

Note 19: For discussions of women in revolutionary China, see Phyllis Andors, The Unfinished Liberation of Chinese Women (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983) pp. 12-28; Elisabeth Croll, Chinese Women Since Mao (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1983) pp. 1-22; Delia Davin, Women-Work, Women and the Party in Revolutionary China (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976); Christina Gilmartin, "Gender in the Formation of a Communist Body Politic," Modern China, 19, no. 3 (July 1993) pp. 299-329; Kay Ann Johnson, Women, the Family and Peasant Revolution in China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); Marion J. Levy, The Family Revolution in China (New York: Octagon Press, 1971); Judith Stacey, Patriarchy and Socialist Revolution in China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); Roxane Witke and Margery Wolf, eds., Women in Chinese Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975); and Marilyn Young, ed., Women in China: Studies in Social Change and Feminism, Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, no. 15 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1973). Back.

Note 20: Mao recognized the oppression of women as a function of other oppressive systems of authority in Chinese society: "political authority, clan authority, theocratic authority, and authority of the husband represent the whole ideology and institution of feudalism and patriarchy, and are the four great cords that have bound the Chinese people and in particular the peasants." Socialist transition would destroy these authority systems. Mao Zedong, "Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan," in Selected Works of Mao Zedong 1, pp. 46-7, cited in Andors, p. 22. Back.

Note 21: Mao echoed Engels' contention that women must participate in public production to achieve gender equality. Engels wrote, "The emancipation of women will be possible when women can take part in production on a large social scale, and domestic work no longer claims anything but an insignificant amount of her time." Engels, The Origin, p. 46. Back.

Note 22: As an organization for developing and implementing party policies relating to women, the W.F. and its local branches never represented the articulated interests of women in society. Rather, its mandates were and continue to be defined from the center as a function of broader goals. Back.

Note 23: Mass campaigns to implement the new marriage law usually followed the land reform campaigns in the countryside. Back.

Note 24: In the ideal patrilineal society, Confucian mores require women to obey their husbands and sons, expect women to remain "pure and virtuous, and forbid widows from remarrying." Kam Loui, Critiques of Confucius in Contemporary China (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980) p. 9. See also Richard W. Guisso, "Thunder Over the Lake: The Five Classics and the Perception of Woman in Early China," Historical Reflection/Reflexions Historiques, 8, no. 3 (Fall 1981) pp. 47-61; Albert Richard, O'Hara, The Position of Women in Early China (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of American Press) p. 260; and Margery Wolf, Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972). Back.

Note 25: Marimus Johan Meijer, Marriage Law and Policy in the Chinese People's Republic (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1971) pp. 112-4. Back.

Note 26: Andors, p. 35. Back.

Note 27: In traditional Chinese society, men were entitled to file for divorce based on the following Seven Conditions: failure to bear sons, adultery, lack of respect for parents-in-laws, excessive gossiping, stealing, jealousy or disease. Women had no right to divorce and were expected to comply with the demands of her husband and his family. In practice, divorce was rare and considered scandalous. See Ta Chen, Zhongguo Funü Shenghuo Shi (History of the Livelihood of Chinese Women) (Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1937). Back.

Note 28: The translation of the singular possessive pronoun in "seine Arbeit" (his labor) from German into Mandarin was a gender neutral "ta." Back.

Note 29: The directives, however, did not mention the participation of urban women. Andors, p. 40. Back.

Note 30:

30. Renmin Ribao (RMRB, People's Daily) editorial, "Mobilize Women to Join the Cooperativization Movement, 5 November 1955," pp. 14-17. Collectivization was formally launched in October 1955. Back.

Note 31: In 1955 W.F. Chair Liu Shaoqi led a brief campaign in urban areas that glorified housework as the proper domain of women. Davin, p. 66. Back.

Note 32: RMRB editorial, "Safeguard the Health of Women and Children in Rural Areas," 16 May 1956. Back.

Note 33: Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (New York: The Free Press, 1986) p. 146., p. 233. Back.

Note 34: Such a broad attempt at collectivizing domestic services has not occurred in other socialist countries. Croll, p. 25. Back.

Note 35: Davin, pp. 145-46. Back.

Note 36: Elisabeth Croll, "The Sexual Division of Labor in Rural China," in Benería, pp. 228-9; hereafter Croll (1982). Back.

Note 37: New China News Analysis (ncna),1 January 1959, cited in Croll (1982) p. 230. Back.

Note 38: People's China 16 March 1950; ncna, 22 September 1959; ncna, 31 July 1958. The Great Leap represented the peak demand for women's work in agriculture. Furthermore, the reliability of these "official" statistics is questionable. They probably reflect the percentage of women engaged in part-time and full-time production. Back.

Note 39: In villages with strong women's federations, women were able to call mass meetings of the commune to discuss the problem. Although parity in work points was not achieved, the average wages for women's labor were raised by one or two points, e.g. from 4.5 to 6.5. rmrm, 9 April 1960. See also, Andors, pp. 57-60. Back.

Note 40: For example, see I. Crook and D. Crook, The First Years of Yangi Commune (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966) pp. 126-9; cited in Croll (1982) p. 234. Back.

Note 41: See William L. Parish and Martin K. Whyte, Village and Family in Contemporary China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978) p. 202. Back.

Note 42: An insightful collection of articles is Sharon L. Wolchik and Alfred G. Meyer, Women, State, and Party in Eastern Europe (Durham: Duke University Press, 1985). Back.

Note 43: Jancar, p. 108. Back.

Note 44: Beijing Review (30 April 1969) pp. 41-8. Back.

Note 45: RMRB, 6 March 1972; Beijing Review (19-25 July 1993). Back.

Note 46: During the Cultural Revolution, local women's federations continued to play an active role in mobilizing women in rural areas. However, women's issues were relatively peripheral to official ideology until the Anti-Lin Biao and Confucius Campaign in 1973. Zhongguo Funü (Women of China) limited its discussion to general development issues; and the W.F. was even disbanded for seven years (1966 to 1973) during a political struggle to purge it of "revisionist" elements. See Elisabeth Croll, "The Movement to Criticize Confucius and Lin Piao: A Comment on The Women of China" Signs, 2. 3 (Spring 1977) pp. 721-6; and Fu Wen, "Doctrine of Confucius and Mencius the shackle that keeps women in bondage," Beijing Review (8 March 1974) pp. 16-8. Back.

Note 47: A variety of responsibility systems exist, ranging from those that "contract" specific production tasks to small work teams or individual laborers, to those in which output or land is contracted to households. The dominance of the latter form has undermined the collective structure. Back.

Note 48: For an empirical study, see Richard E. Barrett, William P. Bridges, Moshe Semyonov, and Xiaoyuan Gao, "Female Labor Force Participation in Urban and Rural China," Rural Sociology, 56, no. 1 (Spring 1991) pp. 1-21. The government claims that nearly one-third of the specialized households are headed by women and 42 percent of the 85 million rural work force in township enterprises are women. Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (cedaw), The Status of Women in China, 11th sess., cedaw, Vienna, Austria, 23 January 1993, p. 26; and win News, Autumn 1992, p. 56. Surveys conducted in the 1920s and 1930s indicate that only one to eight percent of all rural households were headed by women. See Ta Chen and Penwen Sun, "Population," in Chinese Economic Yearbook, 2nd ed. (Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1935) pp. 8-12, cited in Parish and Whyte, nt. 9, p. 135. Based on a small sample (n=131) in the Guangdong province, Parish and Whyte estimate that in 1973 fifteen percent of rural households were headed by women. Back.

Note 49: Croll (1983), p. 28; and Judy Polumbaum, "China: Confucian Tradition Meets the Market Economy," Ms., 3, no. 2 (Sept./Oct. 1992) pp. 12-13. Back.

Note 50: This is consistent with Boserup's findings. For a case of how the confinement of peasant women to small-scale agriculture may paradoxically increase their confidence and foster organization into labor gangs, see Gillian Hart, "Engendering Everyday Resistance: Gender, Patronage and Production Politics in Rural Malaysia," Journal of Peasant Studies, 19, no. 1 (October 1991) pp. 93-121. Hart finds that men are more subservient to their employers than women due to their exposure to political patronage relations and inability to fulfill societal standards of male household responsibilities, p. 114. Back.

Note 51: Croll (1983), pp. 31-2. Back.

Note 52: For sample success stories, see Huang Wei, "Rural Women and Reform," Beijing Review (6 December 1992) pp. 21-2; "Rural Women Come Into Their Own," Beijing Review (9 March 1987) pp. 24-6; "Rural Women Gain Economic Status," Beijing Review (15 October 1984) pp. 9-10; Xuan Fenghua and Chen Yao, "Jiangxi Women Contribute to Rural Economy," Xinhua, 13 August 1990, p. 1; "Status of Rural Women Improves With Reforms," Xinhua, 6 November 1987, in FBIS-chi-87-215, p. 20. In an empirical study, Marshall Johnson, William L. Parish and Elizabeth Lin conclude that foreign market exposure had a positive effect on women's wage-earning opportunities before 1949 and does not adversely affect their position in the post-Mao era. "Chinese Women, Rural Society, and External Markets," Economic Development and Cultural Change, 35, no. 2 (January 1987) pp. 257-78. Dependency theorists would disagree. Back.

Note 53: Survey of the World Broadcasts (swb), "Sideline Production and Rural Income," 24 June 1981, p. A1, cited in Croll (1983), nt. 20. Back.

Note 54: swb, 26 September 1980, ibid. Back.

Note 55: "Status of Rural Women Improves With Reforms," Xinhua, 6 November 1987, in FBIS-chi-87-215, p. 20. Back.

Note 56: Wu Naito, "Changes in Chinese Women's Social Status," Beijing Review, 34, no. 52 (31 December to 5 January 1992) pp. 22-3. Back.

Note 57: During the collective period, Parish and Whyte note that women's work point contribution to the household did not necessarily correspond with increases in decision-making authority. Back.

Note 58: Nahid Aslanbeigui and Gale Summerfield, "Impact of the Responsibility System on Women in Rural China: An Application of Sen's Theory of Entitlements," World Development,17, no. 3 (1989) pp. 343-50. They employ Amartya Sen's theory of entitlements to illustrate that a woman's controllable income may differ from her contribution to production inside and outside the household. Back.

Note 59: Croll (1983), p. 36. In their pre-reform study, Parish and Whyte found that although Hakka women never bound their feet, were traditionally more active in agriculture, and play a prominent role in cultivating income-generating private plots, they are less likely than women in non-Hakka villages to manage family finances; pp. 26, 207, 238. Back.

Note 60: Ann Scott Tyson and James L,. Tyson, "Long Days, Hard Labor for Women Left on the Farm," Christian Science Monitor, 5 August 1992, p. 10. Back.

Note 61: Previous initiatives to limit population growth occurred in 1953, 1962 and 1971. John S. Aird, "Coercion in Family Planning: Causes, Methods and Consequences," in U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, China's Economy Looks Toward the Year 2000, 1 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1986) pp. 184-221; Judith Banister, "Population Policy and Trends in China, 1978-83," The China Quarterly, 100 (December 1984) pp. 717-22; United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), "Family Planning Policies in the People's Republic of China," unpublished manuscript, 1984; Tyrene White, "Implementing the `One-Child-per-Couple' Population Program in Rural China: National Goals and Local Politics," in Policy Implementation in Post-Mao China, ed. David M. Lampton (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987) pp. 284-317. Back.

Note 62: Since China accounts for 22 percent of the world's population with only 7.3 percent of its land, and only 15 percent of the land is arable, Deng's diagnosis in 1979 was not unreasonable. But the identified solution was too narrow in focus since the regime failed to address the fact that due to environmental mismanagement, an additional third of China's farmland would become unarable over the next generation. See Vaclav Smil, The Bad Earth: Environmental Degradation in China (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1983). Back.

Note 63: Total family income is reduced by five to ten percent over period of ten to sixteen years after birth. For the third or fourth child, the levy can be as high as fifteen to twenty percent of couple's income. Back.

Note 64: Andors, p. 52; Croll (1983), p. 90. Back.

Note 65: Croll (1983), p. 89. Back.

Note 66: Jeff Somer, "China Denies Reports of Forced Abortions," Newsday, 4 April 1985, p. 15; Sheryl WuDunn, "China, With Ever More to Feed, Pushes Anew for Small Families," New York Times, 16 June 1991, p. A1. Back.

Note 67: Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta, "Infanticide Continues in Rural China," Washington Post, 24 October 1991, p. B23. Nicholas Kristof, "A Mystery from China's Census: Where Have Young Girls Gone?" New York Times, 17 June 1991, p. A1; "The Lost Girls," The Economist, 328 (18 September 1993) p. 38. For a dissenting view based on a study of the minorities' fertility patterns, see Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver, "Ethnic Differences in Fertility and Sex Ratios at Birth in China: Evidence from Xinjiang," Population Studies, 49, no. 2 (July 1995) pp. 221-6. Back.

Note 68: "China: Where are the Girl Babies?" New York Times, 21 July 1993 in Women's International Network News (win News) (Autumn 1993) p. 57. One source estimates that sex ratios may be as high as 130 or 140 males to 100 females in rural areas. Anna Maria Gillis, "Sex Selection and Demographics," BioScience, 45, no. 6 (June 1995) pp. 384-5. Back.

Note 69: Sex ratios from the 1953, 1964 and 1982 censuses are 107.0, 106.2 and 107.1. Yi, et. al., p. 283. Back.

Note 70: Davin (1987), p. 118. An example of a man who abused his wife after she bore a daughter, but reformed his ways after learning that he contributed to the sex of the child, is Wu Jinbo, "Wo cuo guai le ta (I mistakenly blame her)," Zhongguo Funh, 10 October 1982, p. 42, cited in Emily Honig and Gail Hershatter, Personal Voices: Chinese Women in the 1980s(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988) pp. 204-5. Davin (1987), p. 118; Honig and Hersh child, is Wu Jinbo, "Wo cuo guai le ta (I mistakenly blame her)," Zhongguo Funh,  10 October 1982, p. 42, cited in Emily Honig and Gail Hershatter, Personal Voices: Chinese Women in the 1980s  (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988) pp. 204-5. Davin (1987), p. 118; Honig and Hershatter, p. 294; and Wolf (1985), p. 258. Back.

Note 71: Davin (1987), p. 118; Honig and Hershatter, p. 294; and Wolf (1985), p. 258. Back.

Note 72: While overall national birth rates have declined, they have actually increased in rural areas. For example, in 1981 over 90 percent of the 20.7 million births were from rural areas; and birth rates are generally 50 percent higher in rural than in urban areas. Burns and Rosen, p. 337 and nt.1. For a cross-cultural study of Asian social structure, see Wen-hui Tsai, ed., "Special Issue: Women, Children and Elderly in Asia," American Asian Review, 11 (Fall 1993) pp. 1-151. Back.

Note 73: In attempting to enforce the family planning policy, some rural women cadres face threats of abuse or assault. Su Suining, "There Are Many Causes of Strained Relations Between Cadres and Masses in the Rural Areas," Nongmin Ribao , 26 September 1988, p. 1, cited in White, p. 61. Back.

Note 74: White, p. 63. One case study of Hebei finds that if the daughter-only stipulation for second births were lifted, only 20 percent of the couples would actually have another child. Jiali Li, "China's One-Child Policy: A Case Study of Hebei Province, 1979-88," Population and Development Review,  21, no. 3 (September 1995) pp. 563-85.

For general discussions of peasant moral economy and resistance, respectively, see James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976) and Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985). See also, Eric Hobsbawm, "Peasants and Politics," Journal of Peasant Studies,  1, no. 1(1973) p. 12, cited in Scott, "Resistance Without Protest and Without Organization: Peasant Opposition to the Islamic Zakat  and the Christian Tithe," Comparative Studies in Society and History,  29, no. 3 (July 1987) p. 424. The role of culture in peasant response is given more weight in Edward Friedman, Backward Toward Revolution  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974) part 3, "Rural Revolution," pp. 115-64, as noted in Friedman, "Maoism and the Liberation of the Poor (Review Article)," World Politics,  39, no. 3 (April 1987) p. 417, nt. 24. Back.

Note 75: Along with the family planning policy, this issue has attracted much attention in the Western press. Louise Branson, "Sales of Women and Children Recurring in Chinese Provinces," San Francisco Chronicle , 21 August 1989, p. A14; Huang Wei, "Crackdown on Abduction of Women and Children" Beijing Review,  34, no. 30 (29 July to 4 August, 1991) pp. 24-7. Back.

Note 76: Huang Wei, "Female Participation in Government," Beijing Review,  36, no. 29 (19-25 July 1993) p. 26. Back.

Note 77: Huang notes that 70 percent of the women cadres at the national level have at least college degrees; ibid. See also Zhang Zhaowen, "Eliminating Female Illiteracy in Rural China," Beijing Review,  33, no. 33 (13-19 August 1990) p. 33; and "Women Enjoy 'Ever Higher Positions' in Politics," Xinhua , fbis-chi-93-043, 8 March 1993. For an empirical study of female education attainment during the 1952 to 1982 period, see William Lavely, Xiao Zhenyu, Li Bohua, and Ronald Freedman, "The Rise in Female Education in China: National and Regional Patterns," The China Quarterly,  121 (March 1990) pp. 61-93. One of their findings is that secondary school attainment in rural areas has declined by roughly 25 percent during the post-Mao period. Back.

Note 78: Steven Mufson, "For Many Chinese Women Tradition Means Prejudice and Abuse," Washington Post , 21 August 1995, p. 1. The W.F. holds programs in the countryside to reduce female illiteracy and increase technical knowledge. See Huang Wei, "Rural Women and Reform," Beijing Review,  35, no. 48 (30 November to 6 December 1992) pp. 21-2; and Zhang, p. 33. Back.

Note 79: CEDAW, p. 56. Back.

Note 80: Huang Qizao, Sichuan province NPC deputy, vice president and first member of the Secretariat of the W.F., notes, "China is still in its initial stage of socialism...and still has a long way to go before realizing the goal of sexual equality, the securement of women's rights and interests and giving full play to women's role in society." WIN News  (Winter 1993), p. 53. Back.

Note 81: For example, as a signator of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the PRC is required to submit comprehensive status reports every four years. In 1992 China finally submitted a report which was five years late. Furthermore, in September 1990, the W.F. and the State Statistical Bureau jointly surveyed over 40,000 men and women in 21 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities to determine social attitudes towards women, Washington Post , 21 June 1992, p. 1; Sheila Tefft, "Abduction of Women and Children Rises in China," Christian Science  Monitor , 24 May 1994, p. 1; Sheryl WuDunn, "China Cracking Down on Sale of Women as Wives," New York Times , 3 December 1989, p. A21. Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, a campaign was launched against the "six evils" of prostitution, pornography, the sale of women and children, narcotics, gambling and profiteering from superstition. Nicholas D. Kristof, "Beijing Hopes to Stamp Out the 6 Evils,'" New York Times , 26 November 1989, p. A9. See Wu, pp. 22-3. The W.F. has also launched a farming technology training campaign. See Wang Rong, "Plan to Improve Women's Education, Living Standards," China Daily , 24 August 1991, p. 1. Back.

Note 82: Lisa Stearns, "The New Chinese Women's Law," Women's News Digest , (Hong Kong: Association for the Advancement of Feminism, 1993); and "The Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests," Zhongguo Funü (zgfn)  (Women of China) in win News  (Winter 1993). Back.

Note 83: Jane McCartney, "As International Meeting Nears, China Unveils Plan on Women," Boston Globe , 8 August 1995, p. 2. Back.

Note 84: Some feminists disagree. For example, Susan Brownmiller writes, "It seems to me that a country that wiped out the tsetse fly by fiat can put an equal number of women on the Central Committee," quoted in Batya Weinbaum, The Curious Courtship of Women's Liberation and Socialism  (Boston: South End Press, 1978) p. 7. For discussion of the conceptual and procedural issues surrounding human rights legislation in China, see R. Randle Edwards, Louis Henkin, Andrew J. Nathan, Human Rights in Contemporary China  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). Back.

Note 85: Many China scholars have made this observation. For example, Cheng Li and David Bachman, "Localism, Elitism, and Immobilism: Elite Formation and Social Change in Post-Mao China," World Politics,  42, no. 1 (October 1989) pp. 64-94; David Lampton, ed. (1987); Andrew J. Nathan, "China's Path From Communism," Journal of Democracy,  4, no. 2 (April 1993) pp. 30-42; Jean Oi, "Fiscal Reform and the Economic Foundations of Local State Corporatism in China," World Politics,  45, no. 1 (October 1992) pp. 99-126; Elizabeth J. Perry and Christine Wong, eds., The Political Economy of Reform in Post-Mao China,  (Cambridge: Harvard Contemporary China Series, No. 2, 1985), part 1. Back.

Note 86: Laurel Kendall has pointed out to me that attempts in other contexts (such as the Israeli kibbutz system and utopian communities) have generally been resisted. Nonetheless, I am still inclined to pose the hypothetical scenario with perhaps the overly optimistic implication that the full application of Mao-style mass mobilizational tactics might have yielded different results. For example, during the Cultural Revolution, the party-state did succeed in inverting the traditional social hierarchy whereby intellectuals and bureaucrats were relegated to the lowest tier. Back.

Note 87: Jean Oi, State and Peasant in Contemporary China: The Political Economy of Village Government  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989). Back.

Note 88: Benerìa discusses the significance of accounting for "use-value" as well as "exchange-value" production in the economy. Conventional labor force concepts only measure production for exchange instead of production that involves the satisfaction of basic human needs. In statistics, "active labor" should include all workers engaged in use-value as well as exchange-value production, which includes all activities such as household production and all types of subsistence production. See "Accounting for Women's Work," pp. 134-9. Boserup was one of the first wid theorists to point out that statistics on production and income usually omit "the subsistence activities which are largely women's work," p.165. Cf. Dasgupta, An Inquiry . Back.

Note 89: Gates traces the commoditization of women back to the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279). Under the petty capitalist mode of production, the patriarchal family became the primary unit of production, and the male head of the household sold their female kin into marriage, adoption, slavery or prostitution. Gates argues that commodization emerged with the new class of neo-Confucian bureaucrats who emphasized patrilineal family production over that of individual labor. Hill Gates, "The Commoditization of Chinese Women," Signs,  14 (Summer 1989) pp. 799-832. Back.

Note 90: Low divorce rates in rural China have been attributed to the endurance of arranged marriages and the payment of bride prices. One study reveals that men are reluctant to initiate divorce because they fear the loss of their bride price "investment." See Cailian Liao and Tim B. Heaton, "Divorce Trends and Differentials in China," Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 23, no. 3 (Autumn 1992) pp. 413-29. Back.

Note 91: The issue of party recruitment of youths for the Communist Youth League under the HRS has been raised in general but not for women. For example, in a letter to the Zhongguo Qingnian (China Youth ) paper, Wang Baochang et. al. of Sichuan writes: "With the overall contracting system being implemented, the young people are confined to the small world of a family or a household, calculating how to increase the family income and earn a greater bonus for overfulfillment of production quotas. In this way, how can we examine and determine whether a youth has a high degree of political awareness and possesses the collectivist spirit of devoting himself to the interests of the public?" See "Shixing Zerenzhihou, Zenyang Zhangwo Rutuan Biaozhun?" Zhongguo Qingnian,  16, 26 August 1981, p. 21, in Chinese Education,  18, no. 1 (Spring 1985) pp. 10-12. Back.

Note 92: ZGFN,  1 February 1958, in Andors, p. 46. Back.

Note 93: Jean Lock argues that political ideology in post-1949 China has succeeded in eliminating disparities in gender role expectations. But she relies solely on official documents and literary references to support her position. "The Effect of Ideology in Gender Role Definition: China as a Case Study," Journal of Asian and African Studies,  24, no. 3 to 4 (1989) pp. 228-38. For an analysis of PRC legislation which institutionalize discrimination against women, see Ann D. Jordan, "Women's Rights in the PRC Patriarchal Wine Poured From a Socialist Bottle," Journal of Chinese Law,  8 (Spring 1994) pp. 47-104. Back.

Note 94: They reason that costs are suppressed for the "reproduction of labor power" and for marketable consumer commodities. Mies, p. 184. From an economic perspective, however, is it debatable whether the long-term interests of capitalist development are served by excluding domestic services from marketization. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to explore the issue in detail, a capitalist case could be made for the industrialization of domestic services which is apparent to a certain degree in advanced industrialized countries. Back.

Note 95: For feminist critiques of Marx-Engels theory, see Heidi I. Harmann, "The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union," in Women and Revolution,  ed. Lydia Sargent (Boston: South End Press, 1981); Allison M. Jaggar, "Problems for the Marxist Conception of Human Nature," in Feminist Politics and Human Nature  (Sussex: The Harvester Press Ltd., 1983) pp. 69-82; and MacKinnon, pp. 13-36. Back.

Note 96: Xinhua News Agency  reports that there are over one million self-employed women in the rural areas of Shanxi Province. FBIS-chi-93-043, 8 March 1993. Back.

Note 97: In September 1992, Nina Nayar (Acting Asia Regional Coordinator of Women's World Banking, WWB) and I addressed two Chinese delegations at the United Nations and WWB, respectively, regarding the prospects for establishing links between women-led microlending institutions in China and the global WWB network. Local interest in such initiatives was seen in my subsequent field research visits in 1994 and 1995, and perhaps enhanced by WWB's role in the 1995 U.N. Conference on Women and NGO Forum. Back.

Note 98: At the grassroots level, rural credit programs noted for their reach and impact on women include Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Kupedes in Indonesia and SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association) Bank in India. Such indigenous, non-governmental organizations have enabled poor, often illiterate female entrepreneurs to expand their businesses beyond subsistence levels. For an overview of leading ngos in this area, see WWB, "Best Practice in Finanical Services to Microentreprenuers," What Works, 4, no. 2 (April 1994) pp. 1-27, and 1995 case studies produced jointly by the International Coalition on Women and Credit and WWB. Back.

Note 99: In this regard, the pairing of China and Taiwan might serve as a particularly compelling study. Their apparently similar cultural starting points and contrasting political and economic experiences would be conducive to a range of synchronic and diachronic comparisons. Moreover, ethnographies from one of the countries are often employed to shed light on the other. Back.