ANT 4 China

Ann Anagost

A surfeit of bodies: population and the rationality of the state in Post-Mao China

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Why did the policy come in to play?

"The quality of the people is too low, and the reason that the quality of the people is too low is because they are too many!"

Needs to be controlled for fear of chaos. Concerns about stability and social control. In the 1990s the "joke" that the best development policy for China would be to kill off half the population. 

This resulted in the one child policy in 1978.

Aim was to improve the quality of the population. How? Birth control, child rearing, sanitation, education, technology, law, eugenics.

Needed to bring prduction and reproduction into a proper balance.

Western practices of birth control were considered unsuitable and too liberal: if China's households were to decide for themselves, the rate would not decline. Thus, stronger enforcement was needed to decrease population growth.

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The quality qualities

Desired qualities were within Western children such as Anagnost's son:

- larger
- more supple
-  glow of health
- strength
- intelligence
- responsiveness
- strong will
- creativity
- eagarness to explore

This concern for physical and intellectual quality needs to be understood within the context of the national narrative:

national identity is historical. The "people" are primordial. Eugenics offers a promise of cultural selection.  

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Eugenics translates in Chinese as "good birth, good nurturing." Improved medical care, nutrition and education all contribute to the higher quality population. The idea is to reproduce less in order to reproduce better.

Downisizing the population in order to allow for the disciplined ordering of bodies subject to a central educating authority.

The national minorities has less birth restraints on them. Inferior because there's less of them, therefore there is a smaller marriage pool. 

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Consuming labour

"We used to manage production. Now we just manage babies."

Wanted to reposition the locus of party control from production to reproduction. "The land is too littered with bodies both living and dead, dissipating resources that must be concentrated."

China's achievement in birth planning is said to be a contribution to the world.

Birth control lends itself to consuming labour ---> difficult task so the party is seen as committing itself to the nation's good. Also, the birth policy workers sacrifice a lot: their health, youth, even personla safety to meet the demands of this labour. e.g. one case worker who was out working so much that her own son died from an injury sustained while she was away. "My duties are so heavy, I can't divide myself  but can only do an injustice to my children." She is therefore not an unfeeling mother but one who sacrifices her children to a higher responsibility. 

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The policy worker

  • The social isolation of the birth policy worker is redressed by her role as a caring party member.
  • Willing to lavish care and attention on their targets
  • Coersive measures
  • Committment to productivity rather than reproductivity?
  • Selfless? 
  • Selfish?
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Trafficking as chaos

People stealing children and then posingas peasants on the run, decidng to sell their out of plan children so they could return home. 

This makes the social disorder shockingly visible and creates the fear of chaos that enflmae the public concern for social control. 

The abduction and sale of women and children point towards an unfulfilled hunger for bodies that are not seen as consuming but as producing bodies, essential to the reproduction of the household unit.

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Methods for stopping births

  • Sterilisation
  • Fines for excess births
  • Encouraged contraception
  • Narrative of improving quality ---> nation's best interest to keep birth down.
  • Bargaining land for sterilisation rates.
  • Promoted abortions
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