To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
China and Inner Asia
In Session: The Familial Is Political
3: Neo-Familialism in Xi’s China: Population, Gender, and Governmentality
Thursday, March 25, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
State University of New York, Buffalo, United States
Angela X. Wu
New York University, United States
Shortly after taking power in 2012, Xi launched a campaign calling for “new socialist family values” to “enhance virtue and civility in Chinese families and make them an important foundation for national development, progress and social harmony.” In a few years, the regime’s resounding affirmation of the ethics of “strong families” has led to a large edifice of discursive, bureaucratic, legal, and other forms of power that ensure the family’s centrality within Chinese economic and moral life, although tensions persist as various social forces seek to instill the familial norms.
In our analysis, we use “neofam” to highlight such changes in family-related ideologies and institutions in China under Xi’s regime. We argue that, rather than a restoration of the Confucian family value, Chinese “neofam,” as an idiosyncratic mode of governmentality, embodies the fundamental contradiction between the regime’s two equally important goals: maintenance of authoritarian rule and capitalist accumulation driven by financialization. To substantiate our thesis, we first historicize the formation of the neofam in post-socialist China. Then, we focus on exposing the internal dynamic of it. Drawing on ethnographic and macro political economy data, we argue that, under neofam, the family is not a site where traditional confucian filial piety serves as a cultural asset to cultivate individual’s relationship with the society and the state. Nor is it relegated as a neglectable space where residual of social reproduction was done. Rather, the Chinese family today has become the primary unit of consumption and accumulation.