Today I interviewed Kailing Xie on her recently published book, Embodying Middle Class Gender Aspirations: Perspectives from China's Privileged Young Women (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021). This book takes a feminist approach to analyse the lives of well-educated urban Chinese women, who were raised to embody the ideals of a modern Chinese nation and are largely the beneficiaries of the policy changes of the post-Mao era. It explores young women’s gendered attitudes to and experiences of marriage, reproductive choices, careers and aspirations for a good life. It sheds light on what keeps mainstream Chinese middle-class women conforming to the current gender regime. It illuminates the contradictory effects of neoliberal techniques deployed by a familial authoritarian regime on these women’s striving for success in urban China, and argues that, paradoxically, women’s individualistic determination to succeed has often led them onto the path of conformity by pursuing exemplary norms which fit into the party-state’s agenda.
Dr. Suvi Rautio is an anthropologist of China.