CCCH9023 China: Culture, State and Society
Family and Development in Modern China

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Course Description

Over two decades, family composition has substantially changed in parallel with socio-economic development in China. Traditional values of a family had been evolving from Confucian basis to greater individual autonomy. From the late Mao era, China introduced the one-child policy to limit the population growth in 1978 as a prerequisite for economic development and for the success of the Four Modernizations programme. The one-child policy, urbanization and migration have deeply influenced family norms, disrupted family structures and affected all family members. It is not yet clear about the impact of the two-child policy. The transformation of family norms and values not only deeply affects marriage, family formation, childbearing behaviours as well as obligations to old age support, but also aggregately restructures the population composition. This course aims at introducing the various family theories, concepts, facts and general demographic techniques to understand the inter-relatedness of the demographic, social, cultural, economic and political issues with family transitions in Modern China.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and explain the theories, models and facts about family changes and its interconnectedness of modernization from multidisciplinary perspectives.
  2. Underline and clarify basic family theories and concepts and apply the analysis to the contexts of China and international settings.
  3. Trace and differentiate major sources of family demographic data and their limitations.
  4. Analyze the contributions of family, marriage, childbearing and its impact from migration and urbanization and characterize the political and social forces in the process of modernization at the local and global levels.
  5. Examine the social and economic implications of family dynamics in a multidisciplinary context with reference to the situations of Modern China.
  6. Identify and describe the key facts about family planning scheme and one-child and two-child policy in China and evaluate the impacts of the forces on the modernization.
  7. Locate and appraise family issues (e.g., left-behind children, women and elderly, health care, etc.) to social services and public policies.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 20
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 30
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 10
Assessment: In-class test (incl preparation) 45
Assessment: In-class peer reviewed assessment 5
Total: 142

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
In-class participation and discussions 35
Group project 30
In-class test 35

Required Reading

All required readings will be available on the course’s Moodle as below:

  • Adams, B. N. (2004). Families and family study in international perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(5), 1076-1088.
  • Attané, I. (2002). China’s family planning policy: An overview of its past and future. Studies in Family Planning, 33(1), 103-113.
  • Coontz, S. (2004). The world historical transformation of marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(4), 974-979.
  • Chen, J. (2011). Internal migration and health: Re-examining the healthy migrant phenomenon in China. Social Science & Medicine, 72, 1294-1301.
  • Chen, J., Wu, K., & Sung-Chan, P. L. P. (2012). Families on the move in China: Challenges, strategies, and implications. China Journal of Social Work, 5(2), 109-122.
  • Feng, W., Cai, Y., & Gu, B. (2013). Population, policy, and politics: How will history judge China’s one-child policy? Population and Development Review, 38, 115-129.
  • Fu, Q., & Ren, Q. (2010). Educational inequality under China’s rural-urban divide: The hukou system and return to education. Environment and Planning, 42, 592-610.
  • Glass, A. P., Gao, Y., & Luo, J. (2013). China: Facing a long-term care challenge on an unprecedented scale. Global Public Health, 8(6), 725-738.
  • Gong, P., Liang, S., Carlton, E., et al. (2012). Urbanization and health in China. Lancet, 379(9818), 843-852.
  • Guilmoto, C. Z. (2012). Skewed ratios at birth and future marriage squeeze in China and India, 2005-2100. Demography, 49, 77-100. 
  • Harris, A., Yu, G., Barclay, L., Belton, S., Zweng, W. Y., Min, H., Xu, A., Liao, H., & Zhou, Y. (2007). Consequences of birth policies and practices in post-reform China. Reproductive Health Matters, 15(30), 114-124. 
  • He, C., & Ye, J. (2014). Lonely sunsets: Impacts of rural-urban migration on the left-behind elderly in rural China. Population, Space and Place, 20, 352-369.
  • Hu, H., Lu, S., & Huang, C. C. (2014). The psychological and behavioral outcomes of migrant and left-behind children in China. Children and Youth Services Review, 46, 1-10.
  • Huang, P. C. C. (2011). The modern Chinese family: In light of economic and legal history. Modern China, 37(5), 459-497.
  • Jacka, T. (2012). Migration, householding and the well-being of left-behind women in rural Ningxia. The China Journal, 67, 2012. 
  • Kuang, L., & Liu, L. (2012). Discrimination against rural-to-urban migrants: The role of the Hukou System in China. PLoS ONE, 7(11).
  • Lee, W. Y., Nakamura, S., Chung, M. J., Chun, Y. J., Fu, M., Liang, S. C., & Liu, C. L. (2013). Asian couples in negotiation: A mixed-method observational study of cultural variations across five Asian regions. Family Process, 52, 499-518. 
  • Li, L. (2011). The challenges of healthcare reforms in China. Public Health, 125(1), 6-8.
  • Min, D. (2013). From the revolutionary family to the materialistic family: Keywords for a contemporary social history of China. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 20(3), 393-413. 
  • Siciliano, G. (2014). Rural-urban migration and domestic land grabbing in China. Population, Space and Place, 20, 333-351.
  • Song, Y. (2014). Losing an only child: The one-child policy and elderly care in China. Reproductive Health Matters, 22(43), 113-124.
  • Tian, F. F. (2013). Transition to first marriage in reform-era urban China: The persistent effect of education in a period of rapid social change. Population Research and Policy Review, 32(4), 529-552.
  • Wang, C. (2012). History of the Chinese Family Planning program: 1970-2010. Contraception, 85(6), 563-569.
  • Xu, A., & Xia, Y. (2014). The changes in mainland Chinese families during the social transition: A critical analysis. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 45(1), 31-53. Also from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/famconfacpub/91
  • Yan, F., Tang, S., & Zhang, J. (2014). Global implications of China’s healthcare reform. International Journal of Health Planning and Management.
  • Yi, C. C., & Chen, Y. H. (2014). The intergenerational transmission of the value of children in Chinese families. Comparative Population Studies, 39, 679-706.
  • Zuo, J., & Bian, Y. (2005). Beyond resources and patriarchy: Marital construction of family decision-making power in post-Mao urban China. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 34(4), 601-622.
  • Zuo, J., & LaRossa, R. (2009). Rethinking family patriarchy and women’s positions in presocialist China. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(3), 542-557.

Recommended Reading

  • Attané, I. (2006). The demographic impact of a female deficit in China, 2000-2050. Population and Development Review, 32(4), 755-770.
  • Bianchi, S. M., & Casper, L. M. (2005). Explanations of family change: A family demographic perspective. In V. L. Bengtson (Ed.), Sourcebook of family theory and research (pp. 93-117). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Fei, H. (1998). Earth-bound China: Reproduction system. Beijing: Beijing University Press. [Chinese]
  • Goldstein, M. C., & Beall, C. M. (1991). China’s birth control policy in the Tibet Autonomous Region: Myths and realities. Asian Survey, 31(3), 285-303.
  • Hardee, K., Xie, Z., & Gu, B. (2004). Family planning and women’s lives in rural China. International Family Planning Perspectives, 30(2), 68-77.
  • Lesthaeghe, R., & Surkyn, J. (1988). Cultural dynamics and economic theories of fertility change. Population and Development Review, 14(1), 1-45.
  • Li, J. L., & Cooney, R. S. (1993). Son preference and the one-child policy in China: 1978-88. Population Policy and Development Review, 21(3), 563-585.
  • McElroy, M., & Yang, D. T. (2000). Carrots and sticks: Fertility effects of China’s population policies. The American Economic Review, 90(2), 389-392.
  • Parish, W. L., & Whyte, M. K. (1978). Village and family in contemporary China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Seltzer, J. A., Bachrach, C. A., Bianchi, S. M., Bledsoe, C. H., Casper, L. M., Chase-Lansdale, P. L., et al. (2005). Explaining family change and variation: Challenges for family demographers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(4), 908-925.
  • Sen, A. (1990). Economics and the family. Asian Development Reviews, 15-26.
  • Weisfeld, G. E., & Weisfeld, C. C. (2002). Marriage: An evolutionary perspective. Neuro Endocrinology Letters, 23, 47-54.
  • Yang, C. K. (1974). The Chinese family: The young and the old. In R. L. Coser (Ed.), The family: Its structures and functions (2nd ed.) (pp. 430-445). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Yi, Z. (2007). Options for fertility policy transition in China. Population and Development Review, 33(2), 215-246.
  • Zhang, L. (1981). Birth control and late marriage. In Z. Liu & J. Song (Eds.), China’s population: Problems and prospects (pp. 111-118). Beijing: New World Press.
  • Zhang, Q. F. (2004). Economic transition and new patterns of parent-adult child coresidence in urban China. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(5), 1231-1245.

Recommended Websites


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr M.S. Ran
Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 1185
Email: msran@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr M.S. Ran
Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 1185
Email: msran@hku.hk