Maternal Bodies, Hearts, and Minds: Family Reform in the PRC, 1949-2021
3: Making Family Care Legible: The Chinese 2020-Family Education Law
Friday, March 25, 2022
9:30am – 11:00am EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Paris, France
For the past several years, representatives from the Chinese People’s National Congress have been advocating for a law on family education supposedly to reduce juvenile delinquency and parents’ neglect in particular in poor migrant families. During the recent pandemic and the lockdown measures, parents became the sole educators for several months, thus the urgency of a law on family education has been amplified. My research shows that under the pretence of protecting children, the Chinese state is make family care legible and set official standards of good parenting. The draft law stipulates precisely what methods parents should use to raise their children and what knowledge parents should inculcate to their children. Population studies scholars have studied extensively the One-Child Policy as an extreme example of social engineering, where the state controls the body and the sexuality of its population. Based on a critical analysis of the draft law and previous campaigns, I argue that the Chinese government promotes a broad definition of good parenting which aggregates elements from socialist ideology, so-called Confucian traditions, and liberal parenting style. This normative parenting framework combines contradictory imperatives but offers a one-size-fits-all solution oblivious of the material and social conditions of the household. Parents from the urban middle-class and from rural villages should raise their child similarly. My paper shows how this discourse, a discourse which places particular emphasis upon the role of the mother, is circulated within Chinese society.