China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
China’s one-child-per-couple policy remains the most infamous example of a state managing population. Most studies of planned-birth in China have focused on official discourses and social effects during the later twentieth century. In contrast, this panel examines planned-birth campaigns within a longer and richer history of reproductive politics in China that predates the Reform Era and even the founding of the People’s Republic. With this lens, managing population through reproduction appears less like the brainchild of Reform-Era policymakers and more like the product of dialogue between dispersed voices, including Republican and Communist governments, individual health workers, and subaltern reproductive subjects.
This innovative panel comprises ten-minute lightning talks, each summarizing a paper about particular actors, institutions, and ideas that coalesced in the policies of the 1970s and 1980s. Ma examines the development of laws governing reproduction through criminal cases of abortion and infanticide in Republican-era Chinese cities. Hubbard highlights how Nationalist authorities in Yunnan relied on ancillary women health workers to surveil and discipline reproductive labor in the 1940s. Johnson traces the development of reproductive health policy from Republican to socialist periods through a focus on a key figure, Lin Qiaozhi. Mellors shows that women and couples in the 1950s discussed and practiced birth control even before Maoist pronatalism gave way to state-sponsored family planning. The panel includes commentary from Xiaoping Cong, an expert on the history of women and gender in twentieth-century China, and Tyrene White, a political scientist who has published widely on planned birth in the People’s Republic.