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Chinese Visions of Family and State, 1915-1953

Susan L. Glosser

Publication Year: 2003

At the dawn of the twentieth century, China's sovereignty was fragile at best. In the face of international pressure and domestic upheaval, young urban radicals—desperate for reforms that would save their nation—clamored for change, championing Western-inspired family reform and promoting free marriage choice and economic and emotional independence. But what came to be known as the New Culture Movement had the unwitting effect of fostering totalitarianism. In this wide-reaching, engrossing book, Susan Glosser examines how the link between family order and national salvation affected state-building and explores its lasting consequences.

Glosser effectively argues that the replacement of the authoritarian, patriarchal, extended family structure with an egalitarian, conjugal family was a way for the nation to preserve crucial elements of its traditional culture. Her comprehensive research shows that in the end, family reform paved the way for the Chinese Communist Party to establish a deeply intrusive state that undermined the legitimacy of individual rights.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Whether we credit it to globalism or cosmopolitanism, the need to reach out of the archives of a single nation and to explore themes that are shared across cultural boundaries has invigorated much recent scholarship. Marxist historians led the way. Perhaps this was because Marxist theory offered a structure for explaining the historical relation of worker to capitalist ...

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pp. xv-xviii

Writing these acknowledgments has been an edifying experience. Until now I have not had to face up to the fact that over the past decade and a half I have importuned and inconvenienced dozens of people who have generously agreed to help me in all kinds of ways. ...


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pp. xix-xxii

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Introduction: Evolve or Perish

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pp. 1-26

Confronted with foreign aggression and internal chaos, in 1915 China’s young urban intellectuals launched a vociferous attack on traditional Chinese culture. Their radical reevaluation of China’s political and cultural institutions, a reevaluation later known as the New Culture Movement, lasted eight years and addressed almost every aspect of Chinese society. ...

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1. Saving Self and Nation: The New Culture Movement’s Family-Reform Discourse

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pp. 27-80

Historians of the New Culture Movement have typically focused on either the movement’s nationalism or its romantic individualism and portrayed participants’ interest in family reform as an outgrowth of one of these two elements. Chow Tse-tsung remarks that young radicals believed that “to have all individuals liberated from the old passive thinking ...

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2. Making the National Family: The Statist Xiao Jiating

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pp. 81-133

When the Nationalists came to power in 1927, they exploited the state-building possibilities of xiao jiating discourse by stressing nationalism and patriotic duty. Their version of family reform and its relation to the state differed in emphasis and direction from its New Culture predecessor. ...

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3. Marketing the Family: You Huaigao and the Entrepreneurial Xiao Jiating

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pp. 134-166

As early as 1920, Shanghai’s education and business circles joined forces to address the question of marriage and family. Commercial presses published an ever-increasing number of books and pamphlets on love and marriage. Newspapers began to add supplemental sections on home and family. ...

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4. Love for Revolution: Xiao Jiating in the People’s Republic

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pp. 167-196

Throughout this book I have examined the participants in the family-reform debate during the period in which they were best able to disseminate their visions of the ideal family. It is for this reason that I concentrate here on Chinese Communist Party marriage policies after the CCP came to power in 1949. ...

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Conclusion: The Malleability of the Xiao Jiating Ideal

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pp. 197-200

Family reformers believed that the xiao jiating was essential to China’s salvation. But just what did xiao jiating mean? The New Culture radicals, the Nationalists, entrepreneurs, and the Communists all agreed on several fundamental and necessary criteria that distinguished the xiao jiating from the joint family, or da jiazu. ...


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pp. 201-248


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pp. 249-262


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pp. 263-266


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pp. 267-275

E-ISBN-13: 9780520926394
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520227293

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes