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Susan Greenhalgh_chapter 7

Susan Greenhalgh_chapter 7 - CHAPTEH I The Shfling Local...

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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTEH I The Shfling Local Politics quopulation WHEN THE pRC’s POST—Mao leadership created its project to radii-ally “modernize” the quantity and quality of China’s 1 billion people, it under; took an enterprise ofenormous scope and difficulty. The challenges of mm ting this project into effect have been monumental. Previous Chapters probed these challenges from the vantage point of the regime, looking at problems of policy design as they have appeared to political and program leaders seeking to administer an unpopular program and achieve its targets against great odd; This chapter leaves the state apparatus and drops down into society to tie“. the politics of enforcement from the vantage point of cadres and citizens [11 local communities trying to cope with the harsh reproductive demands em— anating from above. By now, even China’s leaders openly acknowledge that the local politics of population, especially in the villages, has been grim and grievous. The West- ern media have told heartrending stories of fierce resistance and vioient struggle, with grisly consequences for infant girls (e.g., Weisskopf 1985a. 1985b; WuDunn 1991a). The scholarly literature has portrayed rural popula— tion politics, and Chinese population politics more generally, as an unending struggle between a coercive state and a resistant society that continues to this day (eg, Zhou 1996; White 2000b; Scharping 2003; also Aird 1990). Al— though this standard account of endless contestation captures important di— mensions ofthe politics ofpopulation in some places and times (especially the rural areas during the long 19805), it is a partial picture that neglects three im— portant features ofthat politics. First, by focusing solely on the state’s repres— sive project of drastically limiting population numbers, it has overlooked the second, more seductive project of enhancing the quality of the Chinese people. The politics of quality has been very different from the politics of quantity that has dominated our views of Chinese population affairs. In part 212 Y The Shifting Local Politics QfPopularion 213 E‘L.f3u56 of this omission, the standard account has also missed the important mmsformations that have taken place, especially since the early 19905, as mar— “dz-anon has accelerated and quality has overtaken quantity as the major do— ,._.__,{n ofpopulation politics. Finally, seeing power only as a negative force, the l.,,nveiitional account overlooks the positivity or productivity of power, .Ahich has given rise to new or transformed sites of struggle and arenas of . ontestation. This chapter traces broad trends in the community (or face—tooface) pol- ItiCS Of quantity and quality, in both rural and urban settings, over the first twenty—five years of the reform period. Although some parts ofthis story have been told before, the parts have never been connected into a larger account of the transformations that have occurred over the reform years. The bigger Story we tell involves the rapid governmentalization of population; a shift in mode of governance from state bureaucratic power to professional discipline to individual self—regulation and self—cultivation; and, finally. the emergence of diverse and mostly unpredicted efiects. Our story starts in the central state, with PRC leaders’ own views of their agenda and of what was at stake in the creation and imposition oftough new norms on China’s people. Central to those views was modern science, a core logic in regimes ofniodern power. As we saw in Chapter 2, science~—or sci— entistic Claims—were key rationales in all the Leninist state—building projects undertaken by the PRC regime since the middle of the twentieth century. In the population arena, “modern science and technology” emerged as a force— ful element ofpolicymaking around 1979—1980, when the regime was initi— ating the construction of a powerful Soviet—style technocratic—bureaucratic state. Because this new and unusual “population science” so heavily shaped how the state’s population project would interface with society, the roles of population science and of the larger “scientization” of politics and society in the reform era will be central themes in this and the following two chapters. As noted earlier, the regime’s post—Mao population project was part of a larger endeavor to rapidly modernize the country through selective absorp— tion of Western science and technology. After the depredations of the Cul— tural Revolution, class struggle was dead, Marxian ideology moribund, the party’s reputation nearly ruined. The modernizing Deng regime that came to power in 1978 sought to rebuild the regime’s legitimacy by transforming the regime into a scientific modernizer that would draw on Western science and technology to lead the nation to the long—promised wealth, power, and global position. Population policy was a key site for the construction and later ex- pansion of this new scientific authority rooted in nature, biology, and the body. Population was an opportune site for the development of the scientific state because the core constructs involved in its management lent themselves 214 Social and Political Consequences well to definition in biological terms. Reworking a broad Set of putatively “scientific” discourses on sexuality fashioned in the early twentieth cemlm,‘ the post~Mao state defined these constructs—population (the quantity issue] race (the quality question), and gender (the instrument ofreprOdUCtiVe luau: agement)——in starkly biological terms (Evans 1997; Dikotter 1995, 1993)‘ Population was represented as a biological process of reproduction ofintl}- vidual organisms aggregated into a larger population. Race, often conflatetl j" the Chinese discourse with nation (minzu), was con5trued as a biological m- tity to be eugenically enhanced to promote fitness and competitiveness 0?th. national “organism” in a social Darwinist world of interracial and interna. tional competition (Sigley 1996). Finally, gender difference was defined as [1,- ological difference in reproductive structure and function, with women be- ing by nature the primary reproducers, The use of these biologized cons trum allowed the state to represent these forces of great potential—and, in the post- Mao era, of great threat—as impersonal processes “in nature” that had to bf; “objectively” investigated and managed by the state “in the interests of the nation as a whole.” Through the use of modern population science and m- productive technology, the regime would take charge of these domains, can ating a population of optimal size and characteristics that would both fat-iii- tate and symbolize China’s status as a rising global power. In the late 19705‘ modern science thus displaced the older, socialist planning rationale {of “grasping production and reproduction together”) that had guided birth planning in the late Maoist years but now lacked force.1 The socialist plan— ning rationale was not abandoned, for it helped secure the continued legiti— macy 0fthe regime, but it took a back seat to the logic ofstate science. Though largely ignored in the Western literature, the development uf modern population science was crucial to the formulation of China’s reform- era population policy and the emergence of a second site of govemmental power, the disciplinary institutions of the professions, which in the PRC We're closely connected to the state. Drawing on two closely related natural sci~ ences borrowed from the West, population cybernetics and the population ecology 0fthe Club ofRome, in the crucial transition of 1979—1980 China's problem of population was defined as a dual crisis: too many Chinese of too backward a type (for more, see Greenhalgh 2003b).2 The solution was for the state to construct and energetically promote new norms guiding the produc— tion and cultivation of modern persons. The ultimate aim was to transform China’s backward masses into a scientifically normalized, modern society (for more, Bakken 2000). In promoting this larger agenda, the post—Mao regime sought first to limit the growth rate and size of the population (shaosheng) and then to enhance its physical and mental quality (yousheng). Mobilizing a vari— ety of human and life sciences—~demography, developmental psychology: The Shifting Local Politics quoleation 215 Sexology, reproductive biology, and many more-to contribute to this new project on life, the state established putatively “scientific” norms of quantity and quality and then promoted them, initially by the time—honored campaign methods of the Maoist state, and then increasingly through the regulatory methods of the Dengist reform state (all detailed in Part I) and the discipli— ngry techniques 0fthe medical, educational, and other professions. The com— munity politics ofpopulation focused on the negotiations and struggles that ensued as the state and the human disciplines tried to persuade, mobilize, or otherwise induce local society to adopt their norms. The natural science that produced the new one—child norm defined social and cultural factors as irrelevant, Yet of course it was China’s social structure and culture that gave local society the community reproductive norms that it would at times staunchly defend against the scientific norms of the state. The state labeled those social and cultural forces “feudal” and targeted them for eradication through “modernization.” Yet they forced themselves in through the back door, impressing themselves first on informal community policies and then on formal national policy through the workings of the mass line. Social and cultural forces, in particular family socioeconomics and gender values. would come to play critical roles in the Chinese politics of popula— tion, leaving their imprint on the nature, intensity, and outcome 0fth0se ne— gotiations and struggles. They will play a big part in the story told in this and the following chapter. During the long 19805 (roughly 1979~1993, henceforth simply “the 1980s”), the dominant norm promoted by the state was one ofquantity: one child for all. Because the state’s quantity norm was set far below societal de- sires, the official norm was fundamentally negative, or repressive. For many years, and still today in many areas, efforts to instill that norm were funda— mentally coercive, involving state use or threat of force (physical, legal, or otherwise) to impose the official norm on society. While this newly orga~ nized power over life was highly coercive, it was at the same time highly pro- ductive (in the sense explained in Chapter 2, the Problematique), giving rise to historically new (or revived and transformed) sites of struggle and arenas ofcontestation. In an era in which nature and science were the new grounds of authority, it was the biological reproducer, the reproductive-age woman, who became the object ofstate control. In this way, the bodies ofwomen— in particular, married women of reproductive age (15 —49)~became newly public sites of intense struggle over an array of reproductive issues that had long been matters of family politics but were now swept up into the mael— strom of state politics as well: contraception, the timing of reproductive events, and the number and sex of children. In China’s son-loving culture, the struggles over the number of children soon became contests over the gen- 226 Social and Political Consequences Village Transformations: The 19905 and Early 20005 Despite an unbending policy and the inescapability of birth planning, in tlk. late 19905 and early 20005 both local officials and ordinary peasants in SOLIEL' closely studied villages have reported that tensions over birth planning inn-L. eased. A closer look at the rural politics of population reveals two changu, that have softened the public conflicts over births. First, rural couples in“; found a cleaner, more “modern” way to stay within state limits on child numbers while achieving their gender preferences Second, popular desim for children have declined, the end product of the decimation of the parry archal peasant family brought on by a half century of socialist construction and marketizing reform. Although it is impossible to know how genuml these changes are—certainly, conflicts persist in some areas—they desern~ close attention because they may well be harbingers of the future. ENGINEERING GENDERED FAMILIES The gendered state norm that was forcefully reimposed in the early 191 )0; did not solve the gender problem. In a rural society in which most coupIL-t wanted one son and one daughter, the new policy instead created new grna der problems, with formidable consequences. The new, nationally uniform policy was more restrictive than the local policies that had preceded it, re— quiring villagers with a son to stop childbearing and allowing those with .1 daughter to have only one more even if it too was a girl. The new policy was enforced by tight administrative means—frequent gynecological exams tin- women, steep fines for couples, mandatory sterilization for those with two children, tough responsibility systems for cadres—that left local society few options but to comply. Rural couples coped with the new, rigidified policy by intensifying the engineering of their families. With coercive campaigns fading and women’s health slowly gaining more program attention, in tl‘lc 19905 the core struggles over reproduction shifted to the bodies ofinfant girls and, even more so, of fetuses, As noted above, the first wave ofsuch gender struggles had centered on in— fant girls. From the early 19803, peasant couples had reluctantly begun dis— posing of their second and third daughters in a desperate attempt to get a son. Although outright infanticide seems to have declined during the 19805 (Crull 2000), Kay Johnson’s important research on infant abandonment shows that that practice persisted and even flourished, especially during the forceful cani- paigns ofthe early 19805 and late 19805 to early 19905. In Hubei and Hun-.111. where the “custom ofthrowing away [girl] babies” was especially entrenched. those campaigns led to the disposal of vast numbers of infants (Johnson 2004. 10; also Johansson and Nygren 1991; WuDunn 1991b). The abandoned chil— Tlic Shiftng Local Politics quopulariorz 227 dren have been overwhelmingly healthy girls with no brothers, or with one or two sisters, indicating parents’ efforts to work the rules to end up with a Son.“ In notes pinned to tiny bodies, villagers have excoriated the regime’s birth policy for forcing them to resort to this extreme measure in order to get a son. In the tougher enforcement environment of the 19905 parents began abandoning their infant daughters for a new reason: to avoid newly steep fines (johnson 2004; also AP 1999). In the 19905 and early 20003, the decline in the number of girls born has also created a growing black market in newborn fe— male bodies. Poor farmers desperate for a son or unable to afford the crippling fines for excess childbearing have sold their daughters to traffickers, who have marketed them to a society newly hungry for girls—to fill the longings ofthe childless, to make “complete families” of one boy and one girl, and to serve as child brides for poor village men (Rosenthal 2003). Local cadres, sympa— thetic to the villagers’ plight and financially penalized for exceeding birth targets, have looked the other way. By the 19905, if not earlier, a second wave of struggles, this one centered on the unformed body of the fetus, began to overwhelm the first. From the mid—19805, the spread of ultrasound—B machines into every corner of rural China introduced a new and improved way to ease the conflict between state and family fertility norms. For growing numbers of Chinese couples, prena- tal sex determination followed by sex—selective abortion has become an at— tractive, indeed, a “modern” high—tech alternative to the crude and morally fraught disposal of already—living infants (Kristof 1993b). A path—breaking study by the Chinese scholar Chu junhong (2001) suggests that, in parts of central China-and probably elsewhere as welluby the turn of the millen— nium feticide had become an everyday part of the culture of family forma— tion. Over halfthe 820 women interviewed had used it on their most recent pregnancy, with as many as two—fifths scanning their first pregnancy and two— thirds scanning their last pregnancy. Almost 75 percent of women whose first child was a girl checked the sex of their second fetus, and virtually all (92 percent) aborted the second female fetus. While families ended up with the children they wanted, the sex ratio at birth soared~—~t0 126 boys per 100 girls, even higher than the national average for rural areas of 120 (in 1999). A MARKETIZATION ()F VILLAGE FAMILY NORMS Beginning in the 1980s and accelerating through the 19905 and early 20005, the insistent promotion of birth planning, combined with farereaching trans— formations in the economy and family, have been fostering profound changes in cultural desires for children in China’s villages. Already in the mid—1980s, farm couples were expressing strong preferences for small families of one son and one daughter, With growing marketization and urban migration, how- 228 Social and Political Consequences TA B L E 3 Chi/dimming prejirrcntes, 2001 Ideal number China Rural Urban of children (“0) (%) (%) 0 l ,1 0.4 3,2 1 35,8 30.1 52.4 2 57,2 62,1 43.] 3+ 5.9 7.5 1.4 Mean 1.70 1.79 L43 PERCENTAGE NAMING ONE CHILD AS IDEAL, BY AGE Age China Rural Urban 15v19 50.1 47.1) 60.1 20—24 51.9 48,7 61.4 25—29 41.7 35.4 60.8 30—34 33.] 27,0 51.2 35—39 29.8 23.2 48.7 40—44 29,1 20,2 50.0 45—49 24.7 19,8 40.3 All groups 35.8 30.1 52,4 s 0 u R c L: 2001 Reproductive Health Survey, based on responses from 39.140 women aged I 5—49 to question about ideal family size. Data made available by Zhang Guangyu, ever, Villagers’ desires for children continued to shrink and sharpen. In 2001. a national survey suggests, the rural ideal was 1.79 children, well below the ideal of the 19805 (see Table 3).H Although these data should be viewed with some caution, provincial data reveal a similar trend. In ruralJilin, for example, the ideal dropped from 2.5 children in 1986 to 1.6 in 1995 (Feng and Zheng 2002). Despite some difficulties interpreting answers to questions about 1.1111: ily ideals in the context of a strong family size policy, both the consistency of the finding across surveys conducted around the same time and the Size of the changes over time suggest that a real decline in family size preferences has been underway since the early 19905, evident in all but the poorest areas at the country (Feng and Zheng 2002). Ethnographic data support and fill out this picture. Village ethnographies suggest that during the 1990s rural couple; grew wary of having three children or two sons but more eager to ram- .1 daughter (Judd 1994; Greenhalgh and Li 1995; Peng and Dai 1996; Zhang 2002). By the late 19905 and early 20005, some young newlyweds were upt— ing to stop at one, even if that one was a girl (Xie, Gu, and IIardee 2000: Zhang 2003; Yan 2003). In areas ofjiangsu and Hubei, the majority ofyorziig: couples who qualified for a second birth because their first was a girl returned their quotas (PDSC 2003e; Zhang Hong, personal communication, 19J111) The Shifting Lora] Polirits quapu/atiorz 229 2003). While daughter desire is growing in some areas, in parts ofsouth and Central China (such as Anhui, Guangdong, Guizhou, andjiangxi), son pref— erence remains intense (Feng and Zheng 2002; Ku 2003; Murphy 2003; SG 11,12Dec03 BJ). One Fujianese peasant may have captured the prevailing sen- timent in such places when he declared: “There are just two important things in life now, making money and having sons!” (Kristof 1993b, 3), Perhaps the most dramatic change is the growing willingness among the young to raise only one child. In the 2001 survey, an amazing 49 percent of rural women aged...
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