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Precarious Spaces: Women in China’s Two-Child Era

Authors: Xiaoling Chen*, University of Colorado, Boulder
Topics: Women, China, Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: Feminist Geography, China, Two-Child Policy, Precarious Space
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper is part of a dissertation research project that examines China’s two-child policy, the politics of care, and their convergence. Situated within the context where post-reform China has witnessed women’s increasing economic and sociopolitical participation, this study explores the positionality and power status of women of reproductive age in the familial and social realm in China’s two-child era. In October 2015, China officially terminated its controversial one-child policy which lasted for thirty-five years and announced a universal two-child policy that allowed all married couples to have two children since January 1, 2016. The policy is facilitated with a package of regulations and incentives to increase childbirth, such as improved perinatal healthcare, extended paid maternal leaves and available paternal leaves. This paper adopts mixed qualitative methods including fieldwork such as semi-structured interviews and participant observations, and textual and discourse analysis since May 2018. It examines how the two-child policy and its associated incentives unfold in the case of one city in Southern China, and the precarious spaces within and the discursive ways through which women navigate and negotiate career aspirations, fertility autonomy, love and power. The study finds that despite its universality, the policy affects women’s familial status, employability, and autonomy to make fertility decisions and access perinatal healthcare in an uneven manner. In addition, this paper elucidates how structural inequality takes shape through differential effects of the two-child policy.

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