The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 6 of the Common Program

Mao Zedong (1927) writes in his ‘Report on an Investigation of the Hunan Peasant Movement.’ about the position of Chinese women. "A man in China is usually subjected to the domination of three systems of authority: (1) the state system (political authority), ranging from the national, provincial and county government down to that of the township; (2) the den system (clan authority), ranging from the central ancestral temple and its branch temples down to the head of the household; and (3) the supernatural system (religious authority), … As for women, in addition to being dominated by these three systems of authority, they are also dominated by the men (the authority of the husband)." The CCP committed itself at the second Congress in 1922 to women’s liberation as an integral part of the revolution. Later on, during the Japanese war, the position of women is still linked to the ‘four systems’ of authority. In our view, mobilising women to participate in the war is the basic task of the current women’s movement. However, if we are to increase women’s enthusiasm for participating in the war and want to enable them to participate spontaneously and self-consciously, then we have no option but to take appropriate steps to remove their feudal fetters, raise their social position, protect their personal interests and improve their lives.42
Mao Zedong articulates in his preface in the first edition of "Women of new China" ("Women of China" first appeared in Yan’an on June 1, 1939), the guiding principle that the emancipation of women has to meet. "Unite and take part in production and political activity to improve the economic and political status of women." This preface is in line with the CC decision taken on December 28, 1948, about women work in the rural areas in the “liberated” Regions. "The orientation of women’s work in the liberated areas should still be based on mobilizing and organizing women for an active part in production."
During the period of land reform, women were encouraged to share their grievances. The objective behind mobilizing women to voice their bitterness was to provoke political awareness and empowerment. By engaging in the act of expressing grievances, the aim of the organizers was for women to understand that 'land reform meant the overthrow of landlords who exploited the peasants. In essence, it was the desire of impoverished people to become their own masters.' It becomes evident that the mobilization had two primary goals: the first focused on highlighting 'exploitation,' while the second centred on the peasants' ambition to not only eradicate economic exploitation but also to empower themselves and assert their political rights as a collective. Therefore, the specific grievances expressed by women would ultimately be directed by the organizers of this bitterness-sharing towards a collective class awareness.

See Timeline
The CCP sees itself as the first political party with commitment to women's development. The party hereby ignores previous attempts of the GMD government to improve the position of women. On May 5, 1932, the GMD enacts a family law, which recognizes the equality of husband and wife. However, the law considers the husband as head of the family and he has the right to decide on parental responsibilities. The GMD takes the emancipation of the women as an important political issue, because it wants to break the loyalty to the family and strengthen the loyalty to the government. In reality, the GMD government makes little effort to implement the law and she relies on a natural development.
Both men and women do not have free choice in marriage partner, this is certainly the case in rural areas. Here the (financial) status of the family is decisive. The patriarch of the family takes the decision. Sons continued to live with their parents after marriage in an arrangement that benefited the entire extended family through a sharing of political, economic, and social resources. Parents sought the assistance of matchmakers, typically women, to make marriage decisions for their children. Given that many women grew up in one village but married into another, their social connections extended across multiple communities. Older sisters, sisters-in-law, and other distant female relatives frequently participated in identifying suitable families and suggesting matches to the parents of the woman. Engagements were sometimes arranged when the individuals were very young, occasionally involving the offspring of friends or relatives. The majority of women married within a few miles of their birthplaces. Before 1949, bigamy, child marriage, concubines, killing of baby girls, and human trafficking occur throughout the country. The in-laws frequently treat the new wife as a house "slave". After the fall of the empire, members of the middle and higher classes in the big cities are able to escape from prearranged marriages.

The CCP's new Marriage Law aimed to eradicate misogynistic practices. The drafting process lasted approximately eighteen months, involving continuous review, discussion, and revision. It's reported that many provisions underwent thirty to forty revisions, reflecting the incorporation of feedback from diverse groups, including the All-China Democratic Women's Federation, the People's Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Justice.
The first 2 articles of this law, promulgated on May 1 1950, state the law objectives of the New-Democratic marriage system, which is based on the free choice of partners, monogamy, equal rights for both sexes, and protection of the lawful interests of women and children. Article 2 states "Bigamy, concubinage, child betrothal, interference with the remarriage of widows, and the exaction of money or gifts in connection with marriages, shall be prohibited." In practice, article 1 was not valid for everyone "Party and youth League members were expected to report their developing romantic interests to these organizations. If they wanted to marry someone from former wealthy classes or someone with a questionable personal history, they would be strongly discouraged, although not absolutely forbidden, from doing so." See also Article 7
This legislation, akin to the GMD law, embodies the characteristics of family law rather than just a marriage law. Firstly, it establishes the state as the primary and direct authority over marriage and family affairs. Secondly, it aims to eradicate the historical dominance and authority of senior males in marriage and family matters within traditional Chinese society. It seeks to abolish practices such as forced marriage, gender inequality, polygamy, and child marriage—what the CCP refer to as "feudalistic" customs. Instead, it promotes freedom in choosing marriage partners, monogamy, gender equality, and state protection of the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals involved in marital and family relations.
A marriage is forbidden with a person who is impotent caused by physical circumstances, or who has venereal disease or who is mentally ill (article 5) the control on the marriage is described in article 6. The newlyweds have to register in person to control the age of the partners and voluntariness of the marriage. If partners do not register, the wedding is not legal. This article is meant to diminish the role of family and friends and to enhance the role of the state. Control over society therefore, was at the heart of marriage registration. In the beginning, this rule of registration is not widely upheld. While unregistered marriages are prohibited by law, such marital unions may be recognized, and individuals in such relationships can have their marriages legalized at any time upon registration. The inclusion of both registration and social acknowledgment as criteria for marriage recognition in China's new Marriage Law can be seen as a pragmatic approach. This approach enables the government to address archaic feudalistic marriage practices not only through the registration system but also in various other domains. Moreover, it allows for extending legal protection to women and their children. Registration of marriages in the cities was often not seen as a major bureaucratic task. "From an administrative perspective the situation in rural China was likely worse. Reports often mentioned that marriage registration got lost in a sea of other, more politically pressing, tasks. Unlike legal scholars who would speak of registration’s role in maintaining the “health of the nation,” this causal assertion was entirely lost upon rural officials."
Articles 8 and 9 of this law define that both husband and wife seek after the welfare of the household and the construction of the new society. The Party aimed to alleviate concerns regarding the potential disruptions caused by marriage reform by assuring peasants that the benefits of a successful marriage would remain unchanged. Furthermore, they emphasized that the modernized family structure would be even more fruitful in terms of reproduction and agriculture compared to the traditional one.

Article 13 makes it clear once again that this marriage law has the characteristics of a family law. The children have a duty to support the parents. Even children from landlords and counter revolutionaries, who are pressed to distance themselves from their ‘bad’ parents are obliged to take care of them. In the magazine “China’s Youth” of 1954, it is stated in an article “Revolutionary youth should properly treat their own landlord and rich peasant families” "To be sure, during the revolutionary period and during land reform, it had been necessary to overemphasize the need to separate oneself from one’s parents’ ways of thought and behavior. It was now, however, a time of socialist construction, and except for unusual circumstances one must support one’s parents whatever their background. Not to do so would be to lose an opportunity to reeducate them."
One significant aspect of rural marriage that the Marriage Law failed to acknowledge was patrilocality. This practice involved daughters leaving their parental homes upon marriage to reside with their husbands, typically in a separate village. The CCP found it challenging to contest patrilocality as a characteristic of "feudal" marriage, given its deep-rooted presence in rural communities. However, the omission to address this issue had repercussions: the perpetuation of patrilocal marriage has constrained women's opportunities to attain political influence and has fostered a prevalent preference for male offspring.
SU legislation has clearly influenced the text of Article 8 and 9 of the Marriage Law. This influence can be noted in the registration of the marriage; conditions of marriage regarding kinship, rights and duties of the couple and the conditions of divorce.

The new government starts an intensive campaign to promote the new law. The CCP, the ACFDW, the ACFTU, the PLA, educational institutes, and several social organizations have been mobilized to back this campaign. Posters, radio broadcasts, discussion meetings (in Shanghai a marriage reform exhibit ran from 5 October to 5 December 1951, coinciding with a land reform exhibit), illustrated versions of the marriage law and cultural performances have been deployed to make this law known by the masses.
Glosser (2003) describes an extreme form of meetings "… public divorce trials in which the trial itself, as well as the executions, took place before a large crowd that the government had assembled to watch the law in action. In 1951, the Beijing Municipal Marriage Office held 211 public trials. Most of the men on trial had killed their wives while beating them. The guilty were often executed. At the Shanghai Hengfeng Cotton Mill, 1,800 people were gathered together to watch the trial of men accused of raping, abusing, or seducing women. The guilty received two to four years in prison or labor camps." Various forms of popular culture are adopted and adapted in supporting the marriage reform campaign.
The administration intensely supports local cadres, who have to overcome much resistance in the countryside and often themselves are not convinced of the purpose of the law. The Marriage Law campaign often coincided with revolutionary transformations in rural areas, notably Land Reform. In numerous instances, the rhetoric, methodologies, and target selection of land reform extended beyond the boundaries of its own campaign and merged with the execution of the Marriage Law, leading to a complete fusion of agendas.
One year after the implementation of the marriage law, resistance appears to be big. On September 26, 1951, the minister of Justice Shi Liang announced the start of an extensive investigation into the application of the Marriage Law. Shi Liang visited grassroots governments and courts to assess the law's implementation. One of the results of this investigation is "The system of judgement and work style have to be revised: the cadres must handle marital cases positively. They should not only await people to appeal, but should actively support women's rights and carry out the task of educating the masses."
Certain households were hesitant to employ women, apprehensive that they might not perform tasks up to standard. When women undertook agricultural work such as hoeing the land, men would often join in, resulting in disputes over task completion and credit allocation.

Model Women

Mao Zedong also expresses his concern about the implementation of the law and about the slackness of the cadres who are in charge of implementation and control. On November 12, 1952, in a conversation with delegates of the ACFDW, he offers three hints: "… (first, submit proposals to the Party committee);… (second, push for the Party committee to reply) ;…( if the first two methods did not work, third, just curse and swear.)." Many party cadres wanted to postpone the law by presenting it first to the "masses". Mao Zedong was opposed, "…after its promulgation it is right, without doubt, that the broad masses of the people should be roused to express their opinion through discussion. However, the idea of temporarily postponing its operation cannot be accepted." Cong (2016) notices "As a political campaign executed on a large scale and in a short time span, the Marriage Law became a project that was pushed from the top, often leaving little room for local adjustment, flexibility, or assimilation." On February 1, 1953, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai announces the start of an enforcement campaign to eliminate the still existing feudal thoughts and behaviour regarding marriage. 18 days later, he instructs the party cadres. The emphasis was laid more strongly than ever on the gradual process of education as the main weapon. This crusade differs in character from the 1950 campaign. The harmonious aspect of family is more emphasized and the fast implementation is delayed because of the disturbance of the existing social order. The class struggle plays a major role in the implementation of the Land reform law but a very minor role in the execution of the marriage law.
In November 1953, a commission of inquiry publishes their results. The campaign has been a success in 15% of the country, in 60% of the country the campaign is fairly conducted, and in 25% the situation is still bad. The commission concludes, the campaign can be ended, and the welfare work will be a part of the next five-year plan 1953-1957. This campaign did not run in minority Regions and areas where the land reform is still not finished.
Another aspect of the propaganda focusses on the danger of sexual activities of women outside the marriage. "Sex is no longer a private, personal matter; love is no longer an individual affair. The marriage relationship is neither a biological union nor a psychological unity, but a grim necessity, historically and materially conditioned."
The party itself is not a forerunner in women emancipation. In the 7th CC (1945), only 2 delegates of the total of 77 are female. In the 8th CC (1956), there are only 8 female delegates. The total number exists of 170 members. Only 12% of the elected delegates of the NPC (1954) are female and the delegates to the CPPCC (1949) only 10% are female.

In the first 4 years of the new regime, there is an absolute ban on abortion, contraception, and sterilization. As Mao Zedong stated: "It is a very good thing that China has a big population. Even if China's population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production. The absurd argument of Western bourgeois economists like Malthus[3] that increases in food cannot keep pace with increases in population was not only thoroughly refuted in theory by Marxists long ago, but has also been completely exploded by the realities in the Soviet Union and the Liberated Areas of China after their revolutions."
When the figures of the 1953 Census are known, the ministry of public health lifts the ban on contraception. On December 27, 1954, Liu Shaoqi convenes a special conference on birth control. "In January and February 1955 a newly instated ad hoc commission, comprising representatives of the ministries of health, light industry, commerce and foreign trade, as well as the Women’s Federation, took up the study of concrete measures for birth control. Its recommendations were endorsed by the Party’s Central Committee in an internal directive of March 1955. The Central Committee acknowledged a growing demand for contraceptives among urban cadres and workers, and linked birth control to the economic well-being of the country."
Fig. 6.1: Population pyramid (1953 census)
Source: The 1953 Census Statistics Collection of the People's Republic of China
In essence, there was a belief that women should fulfill their biological role as mothers, while also ensuring they could continue to contribute effectively to the workforce without being burdened by excessive childbirth. From the early 1950s, couples were advised to have children when both partners were physically ready and at a pace that was conducive to the mother's health. This approach aimed not to restrict population growth but rather to enhance its quality: healthier mothers would lead to healthier children and a stronger workforce. In 1955, in Guangzhou, the first condom factory starts the production of this rubber. See also Article 48

Emancipation of Women

Husband and wife have the right of free choice of profession, and freedom of participation in social activities. This freedom of career choice is very limited. See also Article 43. "After 1949, legitimate professional activities were limited to the public sector. Not only were disaffected professionals and managers unable to retreat to private lives, but they were also not even permitted to resign from their jobs without securing approval from the very superiors from whom they wished to escape." For years, the private sector has been the most important source of employment. Since 1952, this sector slowly disappears and the collective segment takes this position.
Fig. 6.2 Structural transformation of the urban economy
Source: Davis (2000). Page 256 * Percentage within state employees ** in millions

Students who are graduated have to apply to a national system of job allocation. It is almost impossible to refuse the allocated job. "Students were reminded how much better off they were from pre-1949 graduates for whom graduation had meant unemployment. At the same time, they were informed that it was "forbidden” (Renmin Ribao, 7 August 1952: 1) for someone to act according to personal wishes or preferences by refusing a job on the frontier or a position as a teacher." This concern reached the very top of the government. "In August 1950, Mao Zedong sent a short note to Zhou Enlai asking him to see that the responsible people take care of three Qinghua graduates who had refused their assignments."
Increasingly, the state determines where the individual will work, sometimes resulting in prolonged absence of the husband/wife in the family. The family is in socialist society looked upon as a partnership to be productive for the state and not for the individual. The importance of the state is preferential above the family and the individual. "Within the family, the notion of equal status between husband and wife undermined men's traditional superior status over women. Furthermore, parents were affected, since their influence over the marriages of their children was minimized. No provision was made for parents to assert authority over their children's divorces. Their traditional role is now filled by neighbors and fellow workers involved in divorce mediation."

The SU influence can also be noted in the periodical “Women of China”. This magazine makes propaganda to enlighten the Chinese women about the life and work of the Russian women. An entire generation of women in China benefited from this Soviet influence not only in their way of thinking, but also in the way they lived their lives. Soviet female experts and staff played as a very good example for Chinese female when they came to China for working or living. In 1954, during the visit of Soviet Union leader Khrushchev, new attire for women was introduced, emphasizing floral dresses to symbolize the prosperity of socialism. However, the adoption of Soviet styles was marked by covert resistance and mere imitation. For instance, while urban women embraced a Soviet dress style called bulaji, rural women found it impractical for their agricultural tasks, as it required frequent bending. In an effort to promote this "advanced" Soviet fashion, one village mandated that at least one woman from each household wear bulaji, with female cadres and party members taking the lead. Despite pressure, some women complied, albeit only during inspections.
The narrative of Liang Jun, China's pioneering female tractor driver, draws inspiration from Soviet films. Liang Jun's life story echoes a key theme of propaganda campaigns in the early 1950s, promoting the idea of "Learning from the Soviet Union" and the belief that "The Soviet Union is China's Tomorrow." These campaigns, along with their Chinese counterparts, portrayed Soviet women as progressive role models for both Chinese women and men. Their lifestyles and challenges were perceived as mirroring the struggles faced by the Chinese populace, fostering a sense of solidarity and identification with these women as integral to the international socialist movement.
Following 1953, women began participating in growing numbers in both national and domestic sports competitions. Among the popular sports were basketball, volleyball, athletics, swimming, gymnastics, and cycling. It is noted that the inception of elite female sports was nearly parallel to that of males. There was no discernible disparity in the range of sports accessible to both genders. This stands in stark contrast to America and other Western countries, where male involvement in elite sports commenced much earlier.

In 1954, the tone of the issues in the magazine changes and the role of the woman as housewife and mother is explicitly displayed. "The housewife was shown as contributing to society through her husband and family by acting as a sort of (unpaid) service worker for those who participated in production.'
Status of Women

The status of women in Chinese society has consistently posed a challenge for the CCP. According to the CCP's perspective, the social standing of housewives was ambiguously associated with the bourgeoisie. Therefore, officials at the Shanghai Women Federation found it necessary to emphasize that among the one million Shanghai housewives (including all women without stable employment at the time, as of August 1949), the majority were not bourgeois parasites but rather lower-class and impoverished women. Drawing on Engels's theory of women's liberation, they argued that while her work remains unpaid and lacks significance in social production, she is not merely a consumer in society.
This change of status in 1954 is not without a struggle, especially women who have been active in the military and political work have major problems to adapt to this change. For example, a considerable portion of the Hainan fighting force comprised women, who were instructed to go back to their homes and commence family life. This directive was particularly challenging to accept, given the ostensibly progressive ideology of New Democracy espoused by the new regime in Beijing. The women who had served as Communist spies, soldiers, and field doctors in Hainan voiced their objections to the sudden transition from active roles to becoming housewives and caregivers.
The urban housewife's mission becomes the pursuit for 5 good things (wu hao): cooperation with the neighborhoods; perform household work in a hygienic way; to raise the children with reason and not with violence; to stimulate children and husband to work hard and to study; and finally, to study herself. The reason for this change in policy is the high rate of unemployment in the cities. The status of the working woman in the propaganda is high, but in reality, she has the burden of 2 jobs, because keeping the household is an exclusive task of the woman. As urban women were increasingly integrated into public workplaces during the modern era, the emergence of the woman writer posed a persistent challenge. The identities of being a woman and a writer appeared irreconcilable, leaving women grappling with the dilemma of how to reconcile their female identity with their literary aspirations.
The situation for the rural women is different. "In July 1954, the All-China Women’s Federation issued the ‘Instructions on Work with Peasant Women’, which stated: ‘currently the key task of working with peasant women is to further educate and organise peasant women to warmly support and take an active part in the great production movement with the mutual aid teams and cooperatives as the central force’.25"
The extensive collectivization campaigns of the 1950s in the rural areas (See Article 29) were accompanied by heightened efforts to mobilize women's labor. In fact, from an economic standpoint, the complete utilization of female labour was crucial to the rationale behind collectivization. The goal of collectivization was to establish an organizational structure for production that would enable a more efficient utilization of land and labour, as well as promote diversification within the agricultural economy. Given the relatively low investment rates in the agricultural sector, achieving increased agricultural production relied heavily on altering the production organization and significantly augmenting the utilization of labour. Recognizing the potential of women's "underutilized" labour, labour-intensive development strategies considered it a significant source of new labour.
Most CCP cadres have a rural background, an area where ‘feudal’ thought about women still had the strongest influence. The "3 bonds of obedience" for women were still solidly felt, they were obeying father when young, obeying husband when married, and obeying adult son when husband died. Although the CCP preached equal rights in the hearts of most men, women should be subordinate to men. The Daoist philosophical doctrine of the yin-yang (阴-阳) dualism still prevailed. Yang is generally associated with positivity, energy, heat, life, light, strength, activity, and masculinity; whereas yin is associated with negativity, stasis, coldness, death, darkness, weakness, passivity, and femininity. Women should be housebound, cook, clean, and weave. Men should be farming and fighting.

The marriage law does not include any list of the kinds of offenses that would warrant divorce. Instead, it focuses almost entirely on procedures, and not on principles. The right for women to be able to ask for a divorce raises much resistance. Both wife and husband have to agree to the divorce (article 17 of the marriage law) and have to go to court. The court will order an attempt at conciliation and if this fails will rule sentence. The mediation system within Chinese society has deep historical roots, suggesting that the longstanding tradition of people resolving issues independently has been passed down to contemporary Chinese society. Nowhere was the mediation ideology more consistently and energetically applied than in disputed divorces: the primary objective of court intervention was to reduce the occurrence of divorce by actively promoting "mediated reconciliations." The justification provided was that marriages should not be treated as casually in "socialist China" as they were in the capitalist West. Despite the justice system's emphasis on the freedom of marriage and divorce, as well as gender equality, divorce was intended to be much more difficult to attain and should be approached as such. See Article 17
According to Deng Yingchao, the leader for the ACFDW, the mediation is required to protect the position of the wife. Most divorces are in the rural areas and not in the cities. Partly provoked by rural cadres, who were sent to the cities and are attracted to beautiful urban women. "In fact, the predilection for well-educated and urbane young women was so strong that in the Civil War period, some male cadres saw the Communists' final occupation of the urban areas as a chance for them to grab modern women." There is also another reason for these ‘rural’ divorces. The rural cadres are completely occupied in their Land reform work and are often from home. The mothers in law are in no position to interfere because they can be accused of having feudal characteristics. Townspeople are less inclined to go to court because they fear loss of face and the aversion for the involvement of legal researchers. The official number of divorces is in 1950: 186.000, 1951: 409.000, and 396.000 in the first 6 months of 1952. The number of divorce cases in the courts reaches more than 1,170,000 nationwide in the single year of 1953. During 1950-1953 each year, 70.000 to 80.000 Chinese women and men (mostly women) committed suicide or were killed because of the lack of freedom in marriage.
Fig. 6.3: Cases at courts 1949-1954
Source: Tiffert (2015). Page 276

In February 1953, Zhou Enlai introduces some restrictions on divorce. "only in the very small number of cases where nuptial relations have deteriorated to the stage that they can no longer be continued, may divorces be permitted, and then only after serious efforts at mediation and persuasion in order to win popular sympathy from the masses. 129" Maintaining the marriage and supporting the husband is a task for the woman. "Ideal wives were portrayed as interested in political affairs and equal to their husbands, but also willing to sacrifice for them if the men were out contributing to the construction of socialism. No comparable literature was directed at husbands. Marital harmony, when it appeared at all in the press, was primarily a woman’s duty to nurture and maintain." 33
As a process that could be influenced by gender, women's liberation seldom focused on emancipation from male dominance solely based on gender. Instead, it usually advocated challenging male authority when it was linked to class oppression. In the social classes and sectors where the concept of women's liberation was relevant, it was not meant to be divisive. Its aim was to address men from non-revolutionary classes, those who were not considered part of the ranks of the "renmin," the People.
The opportunities of women after a divorce are very limited. They have to hope that their own family will adopt her. There are barely alternatives, all nunneries and brothels are closed, and to live as a concubine is also impossible.

Immediately after the proclamation of the People's Republic of China, the government starts a campaign to close all brothels in China. This operation starts in Beijing in October 1949 and ends in January 1950, but in some cities the brothels close in 1952 (Xi’an, Qingdao, and Wuhan). In Shanghai, there are still brothels until 1958. "In October 1949, the number of brothels in Shanghai was 525; by the end of 1950 it was 156 and by the end of the Campaign to Suppress counterrevolutionaries in November 1951 it was seventy-two. Similar tactics in Tianjin were successful in reducing the number of brothels by 213 by January 1950."
Prostitutes are seen as both agents and victims of a broader social disorder. The prostitutes are sent to little detention center to be re-educated. They are put under medical supervision and have to learn a profession in order to support themselves and are organized into study sessions, of which the most important goal was to install a sense of class consciousness. After their release, they are still under supervision.
Luo Ruiqing, the minister of public security, states: "Beijing is one of the very first cities to carry out reeducation. We have gained a great deal of experience through the processes of interning and dealing with the reeducatees, material preparation, and the like. We must summarize all of these facts ... so that cities currently undergoing the takeover process and those about to do so can absorb lessons from that experience and carry out their work more effectively."
Not all of them wanted to change their way of living "…interned prostitutes resisted government control, they did so because “they had suffered years of exploitation and oppression,” and thus “they were terrified, suspicious, and mistrustful." The majority of prostitutes, even after undergoing "reform," were relocated to farms and distant provinces, unless claimed by family and returned home. In practice, they were permanently marked with a stigma. This label would remain with them for the rest of their lives, making it exceedingly challenging for them to reintegrate into social life. The thought reformers have to make a clear distinction in the nature, causes, and resolution of each type of resistance. See Article 17 .
Besides the existence of brothels, also nude photographs—particularly of women posing alone—filled the market. Photos of foreign nudes were obtainable at extremely high costs but also cheaper pictures remained available. Trafficking those materials was a profitable way of making a living, most of these traffickers are poor but also disenfranchised.
Indulgence in love and sex was seen as perilous individualism. In 1949, the General Administration of Press and Publication published the indictment of The Self-Control of Sexual Urges, it stated: "… the state has long since promulgated the Marriage Law, bringing them enormous happiness. Thus mere sexual desire is not the most important problem for young people living during the era of Mao Zedong. If they need to know physiological and hygienic information, there are a large number of scientific…books already published. (sexually tinted) Books like this are not necessary today, and their content is unsuitable."

Zhang Qinqiu cited in Evans (2003). Page 203. [Cite]
Kang (2016) remarks "The CCP’s feminist initiatives suffered great setbacks after 1927, after the Nationalist Party’s bloody purge drove the Communists out of urban centers. Within the CCP, the patriarchal gender hierarchy marginalized female activists, and the male leadership gradually shifted party priority from gender inequality to class oppression." Kang (2016). Page 520 [↩] [Cite]
Wu (2014). Pages 12-13 [Cite] and Hershatter (2011). [↩] [Cite]
Tan (2020). "Traditional Chinese father’s primary role is a provider and teacher who provides for and disciplines children. Fatherhood in China means ‘emphasizing strong parental control, obedience, shaming, love withdrawal, filial piety, family obligation, maintaining harmony, collectivism, protectiveness, and “training”’" Page 176 [↩] [Cite]
Hershatter (2011). Page 106 [↩] [Cite]
Green (1976). Page 366. [Cite]
The first regulation of divorce dates back to the 1931 Jiangxi Soviet’s Marriage Regulations of the Chinese Soviet Republic. It states in article 9: “Freedom of divorce is established. Whenever both the man and the woman agree to divorce, the divorce shall have immediate effect. When one party, either the man or the woman, is determined to claim a divorce, it shall have immediate effect” Cited in Huang (2005). Page 175. [Cite]
Cong (2016) states "In Liu (Shaoqi)’s instructions, he argued that the existing marriage regulations in various revolutionary base areas were not unified and powerful enough in combatting feudalism. He suggested that the 1934 Soviet Marriage Law represented a firm stand against feudalism and should be used as the basis for drafting a new law. 8 The term underlying the principle of marriage reverted to ziyou (freedom instead of zhi zhu 'act for oneself'), and the policy became more radical." Cong (2016). Page 247 [↩] [Cite]
Green (1976). Pages 390-391. [Cite]
Lee (2011) points out "Class identity is the ultimate fount of all emotions; it leaves one with no choice but to love fellow class members and hate those in the antagonist classes. A peasant cannot love a landlord, and a worker cannot love a capitalist; between them there is only hatred. As a Southern Daily (Nanfang Ribao) article declares: “Real love cannot exist between a feudalistic and progressive person.” 2 The “feudal” and the “progressive” are locked in a world-historical struggle the outcome of which is predetermined by the Marxist law of history." Lee (2011). Pages 149-150.[Cite]
A letter from the Ministry of Justice answers the question about marriages between Chinese cadre and a foreigner: "The principle when dealing with the problem of marriages between Chinese and foreign cadres is: army cadres and foreign office cadres are absolutely not allowed to marry foreign cadres; in general, marriages between cadres and foreign cadres must not be in contravention of the provisions of the Chinese Marriage Law. If the foreign cadres’country has already established diplomatic relations with China, attention must also be paid to the law of the foreign cadres’ own country. In the letter on the part of Yang Shu-heng is mentioned that a Chinese lecturer requests to marry a Japanese nurse; in accordance with the principle related above we recognize: if their marriage is not in contravention of the Marriage Law of the Chinese People's Republic it can be allowed." Cited in Cohen (1974). Page 667 [↩] [Cite]
Huang (2006). Page 24 [↩] [Cite]
Niida (1964). Pages 7-8.[Cite]
"For a collective wedding after 1949, at least two—though usually more—couples joined in a ceremony, during which they received and signed their wedding certificates. After the ceremony, friends and family would gather for some tea and sweets. Such weddings were said to curtail excessive feasts, exorbitant dowries, and wasteful expenditures—all remnants of the ‘‘old society’’ (旧社会jiu shehui) in which weddings symbolized financial transactions between two families, not a free marriage of two individuals.2 Yet, although collective weddings seemed the ideal ceremony for the People’s Republic, the central government refrained from imposing unifying regulations. The PRC Marriage Law, which came into force in May 1950, made no mention of weddings. They were a local matter for lower-level people’s governments and people to address." Altehenger (2015). Page 49 [↩] [Cite]
Diamant (2014). Page 88. [Cite]
Diamant (2001b) states "By the late 1950s in rural China, numerous reports noted that peasants often did not bother to register their marriages, and the state had all but given up persuading them to undergo physical exams, which was one of the main rationales for marriage registration in the first place.26 In urban areas, reports also indicated widespread violation of registration requirements, particularly among the working classes. Much of the reason for this failure lies in the state itself—many officials were just as confused by this sudden intrusion into the private sphere as ordinary citizens,..." Diamant (2001b). Page 452 [↩] [Cite]
Glosser (2003). Page 217 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Parish (1975). Page 622 [↩] [Cite]
Hershatter (2019). Page 7 [↩] [Cite]
Green (1976). Page 369 [↩] [Cite]
Glosser (2003). Page 172. [Cite]
Alekna (2020). describes "...,in 1951 during the promulgation of the new marriage law crowds were ordered to listen to public denunciations ('trials') of violators of the statute (on the radio)." Page 256 [↩] [Cite]
Cong (2016). Page 244. [Cite] For example, in 1950 a Ping opera (Pingju 评剧) play entitled Liu Qiao’er 刘巧儿 was presented on Beijing ’s stages to accompany the promulgation of the revolutionary new Chinese Marriage Law. Moreover, with the participation of elite professionals, the opera Liu Qiao’er was revised to contribute to the presentation of the revolutionary experience in Yan’an and the story of self-determination. The newly revised opera was frequently staged over a large part of northern China, including Beijing, Hebei, and Tianjin, from 1950 to 1958, and its music was recorded and broadcast nationwide on the radio, penetrating into daily life of the people. Page 245 [↩]
Diamant (2014). Page 90. [Cite]
Glosser (2003). "Theoretically speaking, marriage and land reform were ideologically compatible because both sought to undermine traditional power relationships. The Party also believed that women would have to have land of their own, and thus a means to support themselves, if the Marriage Law and divorce laws were to have any effect. 7 Nevertheless, cadres on the ground understood that marriage reform discouraged male peasant support for CCP reforms and might offset the wealth-creating possibilities that land reform offered. (…) Cadres were also wary of weakening land reform efforts by creating gender divisions within the lower peasant classes." Glosser (2003). Page 169 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Ng (1974). Page 92.[Cite]
"...a Marriage Problems Work Team sent by the provincial government in 1952 found a host of unsanctioned practices: buy-and-sell marriages,underage marriages, polygamy, children raised as daughters-in-law, and marriages in which a second husband was brought into a household to support the parents and children of the (presumably incapacitated) first husband.80" Hershatter (2011). Page 110 [Cite]
26-09-1951 Zhou Enlai "Effectively implement the marriage law to protect women's legal rights"
" In 1951 10,000 women were said to have suffered death by suicide or homicide in Central and South China alone after family disputes about questions of marriage and divorce, ..." Davin (1979). Page 87 [↩] [Cite]
Hershatter (2011). Page 75 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Wang (2006). Page 914 [↩] [Cite]
Cong (2016). Page 246 [↩] [Cite]
01-02-1953 GAC Instructions on Implementing the Marriage Law
See RMRB 01-02-1953 "Vigorously prepare to launch a mass movement to implement the Marriage Law."" In the same edition "Facts in many parts of the country show that the implementation of the marriage law is extremely uneven" [↩]
See RMRB 19-02-1953 "Supplementary Instructions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Work of Implementing the Marriage Law Movement" [↩]
See chapter 10 “The 1953 Marriage Law Campaign” in Johnson 1983. Pages 138-154 [Cite]
"Some of these groups (the local government leadership and cadres) even openly resisted the Marriage Law by upholding traditional customs and interfering with individual marriage freedoms. As the result of such maladministration, the practice of arranged marriage was still popular, women were still constantly oppressed and abused, and related suicide and homicide cases were still common." Directive of the Government Administration Council of the Central People’s Government on the Implementation of the Marriage Law], February, 1, 1953 cited in Xu (2011). Page 206 [Cite]
"Zhou Enlai claimed that some cadres called the law a 'woman’s law for oppressing men’ and accused them of ignoring suicides and murders of women, and even themselves interfering in free-choice marriages" Davin (1976). Page 89 [↩] [Cite]
Cong (2016). Page 246. [Cite] Glosser (2003) remarks "The government recognized the controversial nature of the Marriage Law and discouraged cadres from enforcing it while they led the many other political campaigns that took place from 1950 to 1953". Glosser (2003). Page 169 [↩] [Cite]
Green (1976). Pages 383-384 [↩] [Cite]
Fu (1955). Page 122. [Cite]
Glosser (2003) states the CCP "...condemned as individualistic, petit bourgeois, or capitalist those ideals of love and marriage that prevented individuals from fulfilling their duties to the new socialist state and society. Glosser (2003). Page 175. [Cite] She also cites the viewpoint of Ding Ling: "Warmth and affection were normal, she maintained, they just had to be appropriately regulated. While students or young people who had just started working might want to delay love if it got in the way of other pursuits, adults were expected to balance love and work. 66 A correct understanding of “revolutionary love” provided the key to striking the proper balance: “We cannot look at love just from a private point of view, rather, we must understand it from the point of view of its relation with society." Page 183 [↩]
Scharping (2013). Page 44 [Cite]
"Knowledge of and access to scientific methods of birth control, essential though they are to the health of women and to their liberation from heavy domestic burdens, were not widespread in the villages until the 1960s." Davin (1976). Page 134 [↩] [Cite]
Mellors (2023). Page 77 [↩] [Cite]
The ministry of Health had prohibited the import of contraceptives as not being in accord with the country's policy in January 1953. Scharping (2013). Page 44 [Cite]
"Since 1954, some contraceptives –cervical caps, condoms, ointments, and suppositories – were being produced domestically while others were being imported to meet the rising demand for such products." Mellors (2023). Page 94 [↩] [Cite]
Davis (2000). Page 253 [↩] [Cite]
Davis (2000). Page 258. RMRB 07-08-1952 The Ministry of Personnel of the Central People's Government formulates a plan to uniformly distribute college graduates [↩] [Cite]
Davis (2000). Page 272, note 8 [↩] [Cite]
Wong (1982). Page 256 hild relationship." Tan (2020). Page 199 [↩] [Cite]
"Fathers are explicitly advised by propaganda to devote themselves to the economic development, rather than take time to raise and ‘control’ children. A responsible father means focusing on actively attending the states and communities’ work and events. The increasing number of dual earner families to some extent relieves the problem of male privilege because ‘mothers and fathers can do the same things’. But social institutions’ supporting parenting have not significantly influenced gender allocation of household duties since revaluing of fathers’ roles is not the priority. The father-child relationship is regarded as secondary to mother-child relationship." Tan (2020). Page 199 [↩] [Cite]
Jian (2010). Page 259 [Cite]
Jiao (2021) notices "While breast-binding conveyed the patriarchal morality that the Communist authorities publicly opposed, it was not the antithesis of Communist ideology, which emphasized class struggle and revolution. A politically correct femininity also required women to be cautious about how their breasts appeared...during the Mao era, nothing was actually trivial, and “trivialities”—including women’s bodies and female breasts—became an essential way of determining one’s political consciousness....After 1949, curvaceous figures, low-cut dresses, and tight-fitting dresses were identified as bourgeois by Communist standards." Pages 14-15 and she states "Confusion thus reigned. Breast-binding was labeled feudal by Communist publications, yet at the same time, large breasts were defined as bourgeois, rightist, and revisionist." Page 17[↩] [Cite]
See also Ng (2015). Pages 60-77. [↩] [Cite]
Li (2012). Page 10 [↩] [Cite]
Chen (2007). Page 60 [↩] [Cite]
See from the same writer Chen (2003). Pages 268–295. [Cite]
See also Du (2017). Pages 55-94 [↩] [Cite]
Dong (2004). Page 28 [↩] [Cite]
Davin (1975). Page 364.[Cite]
"Though the widespread glorification of industrial labour in the 1950s probably did rather devalue other types of work, efforts were m ade to set up a new system of values in which earning power would count for less, and selfless service to the people m ore. The social worth of the work done by housewives in residents’ committees was anyway more obvious than that of housework, so that though unpaid it certainly conferred some prestige." Davin (1976). Page 163 [Cite]
Sun (2011) studies the influence of posters and remarks "Drawn in distinctive colors, these poster women appeared strong yet feminine and beamed with pride and self-confidence. Implicit in the visual presentation is the definition of a kind of “new woman,” one who embraced her dual roles as a nurturing mother as well as a hard-working participant in the socialist movement. Needless to say, in actual reality women found it rather daunting to cope with the power dynamic between family and state..." Sun (2011). Page 128 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2005). Pages 522-523. [↩] [Cite]
"There are no accurate statistics available on the numbers of housewives in China during the 1950s. According to Statistics on Women in China: 1949-1989 (Zhonghua quanguo funii lianhehui funii yanjiuhui 1991 239), it can be inferred that probably ninety percent of urban women were housewives. At the end of 1953, the number of female workers in state-owned enterprises was 2,132,000 and accounted for 6.6 percent of all urban women. Although some women might have taken part in production activities outside their households in other working units besides the state-owned enterprises, we can still say that most urban women during the early 1950s were housewives." Song (2007). Page 49. [Cite]
The instructions of Hukou inspection officers in 1950 state: "If a woman is at home cooking and doing housework, does this count as having an occupation? What should it say on the household registration form? Answer: It doesn't count as an occupation. Leave the [relevant] box in the household registration form empty." See Graminius (2017). Page 4 [↩] [Cite]
Murray (2011). Page 294 [↩] [Cite]
"The large-scale mobilisation of women’s participation in farming had a negative impact on women’s lives. The state’s mobilisation of women was not accompanied by exhortations to encourage men to take greater responsibility for housework. In the 1950s, peasant households consumed few commodities. Women made their own clothes and shoes by hand, and the cloth for making clothes was all spun and woven by women." "It means if a woman worked all year round, she could not provide enough clothes and shoes for the whole family, especially since she also had to cook three meals a day, do laundry and look after children." Gao (2006). Page 596 [↩] [Cite]
"In the Guanzhong area, most women did not work in the fields before 1949. They mainly worked at home in such sideline occupations as spinning yarn, weaving cloth and doing housework. After 1949, when the mutual aid teams and agricultural cooperatives were set up, more and more women started to work in the fields,...But until 1955, work in the fields remained largely unpopular among women." Gao (2006). Page 606 [Cite]
 30-12-1952 CC Forwarding the Report of the Party Group of the All-China Women's Federation on the Current Situation and Existing Problems of Women's Participation in Agricultural Production [↩]
Licandro (2018). Pages 89-90 [↩] [Cite]
Gao (2006). Page 598 [↩] [Cite]
Niida (1964). Page 12 [↩] [Cite]
Huang (2006). Page 287 [↩] [Cite]
Ip (2003). Page 345. Party cadres petitioned for and obtained a divorce on the grounds that the relationship with their wives had ruptured because they are filled with “backward feudal thought” or illiterate. [↩] [Cite]
See Diamant (2000). Pages 197-198. [Cite]
"...the Marriage Law had particular effects on transnational marriages. By giving women the right to sue for divorce if they had been abandoned for more than three years, the Law tapped into a chronic source of tension within transnational families: the frequent phenomenon of prolonged male absences and anxieties over the sexual and economic behaviour of absent spouses. ... local authorities ... announced that wives whose overseas husbands had not returned to China in the last three years could sue for divorce." Peterson (2007). Page 30.[Cite]
Chan (2013) concludes "Although Party cadres implementing the Marriage Law in 1953 first portrayed qiaofu ((women of overseas husbands) as oppressed figures, the Party-state soon withdrew its commitment to liberating them from transnational marriages. The desire for overseas Chinese support for the new Chinese state, as well as the focus on building productive families to raise national production, eventually caused marriage reform to backfire. It led state officials to downplay conflicts between qiaofu and overseas Chinese that they had helped instigate at the beginning." Chan (2013). Page 465 [↩] [Cite]
Diamant (2000b). Pages 59. 172-174.[Cite] See also Diamant (2001). No page number "Not only were local state institutions (such as mediation and residence committees) dominated by illiterate workers and former People's Liberation Army officers, its new Marriage Law demanded that they break down the cultural barriers that allowed them to claim elite class status in the first place. Not surprisingly, many avoided the state." [↩] [Cite]
See RMRB 19-02-1953 "Supplementary Instructions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Work of Implementing the Marriage Law Movement" [↩]
Hershatter (2019). Page 11 [↩] [Cite] [Cite]
Evans (2003). Page 203.[Cite]
Evans (2002) notes "During the first three decades after 1949, there were only two significant moments when women’s domestic and marital positions were explained in terms of gender rather than class. During the 1950–53 period, when extensive efforts were made to publicize the radical potential for women of the Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China, domestic discrimination against women was repeatedly condemned, albeit as an aspect of continuing feudal practices." Evans (2002). Page 354 [↩] [Cite]
Cohen (1998). Page 71 [↩] [Cite]
Tiffert (2015) describes, as he calls it, the legal blitzkrieg against brothels. "(It) began on the evening of November 21, 1949. The previous March, the city government had enacted regulations that, among other things, required the guesthouses in which prostitution flourished to register. But this merely pushed prostitutes into other establishments such as bathhouses and barbershops, or underground. In early August, the municipal people’s congress took up the matter, after which regulations tightened, and systematic preparation for a citywide ban began.565 Senior officials, such as minister of public security Luo Ruiqing took a personal interest in the prostitution trade, and Peng Zhen himself led a group to Bada Alley ⼋八⼤大胡同 outside Qianmen to survey the problem firsthand. At six o’clock in the evening on November 21, the municipal people’s congress adopted a resolution on closing down brothels, and two hours later, with military precision, 2,400 police and public security cadres divided into 27 teams fanned out across five districts in the city and its environs.566 By morning they had closed down approximately 224 brothels and taken 1,268 prostitutes into custody.567" Tiffert (2015). Page 143 [↩] [Cite]
Jeffreys (2006) remarks "local governmental authorities were charged with the task of realizing the CCP’s established goal of eliminating the ‘ugly’ system of prostitution. Given the sheer enormity of this task, and the myriad other social issues that had to be addressed, the relevant authorities adopted a dual policy of immediately eradicating brothel-prostitution in cities where the problem could or had to be dealt with effectively, and adopted a slower approach in areas where the number of people who depended on institutionalized prostitution for a livelihood was too large for the already over-reached resources of China’s new governmental authorities to handle. While not exhausting different localized responses, Ma (Weigang (1993: 8)) contends that two measures were favoured in the main: the slow approach of first controlling and then prohibiting brothel-prostitution, which was adopted in cities like Shanghai, Tianjin, and Wuhan; and the fast approach of deploying drastic, emergency-style measures, which was adopted in the capital city of Beijing, to provide a national example and demonstrate the political will and capacity of the new regime." Pages 162-163 [↩] [Cite]
Biddulph (2007). Page 73. [Cite]
Henriot (1995) notes "In November 1951, a press report noted that several brothel-keepers had been arrested and executed during the campaign against counter-revolutionaries.39 The persistence of active clandestine prostitution contradicts the reassurance of the authorities on the reduction in the number of brothels." Henriot (1995). Page 474 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Smith (2012). Page 58.[Cite] Wang Zhen, who was then the acting Shanghai Mayor, recruited 920 prostitutes who had been transformed into “good people” to marry some veterans of the GMD defected troops who were not married. He also recruited 8,000 Hunan women soldiers to be stationed in Xinjiang in order to get married with PLA soldiers. [↩]
Smith (2013). Page 938 [↩] [Cite]
Ruan (2010). Pages 486-487 [↩] [Cite]
Wang (2019). Page 88 [↩] [Cite]

01-05-1950 The Marriage law

Chapter 1 of Common Program