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Liu, Jieyu, Bell, Eona and Zhang, Jiayu (2019) 'Conjugal intimacy, gender and modernity in contemporary China.' British Journal of Sociology, 70 (1). pp. 283-305.

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The new generation of modernity theorists have forecast the democratization of gender relations within intimate relationships in late‐modern times. Chinese society has undergone rapid and dramatic changes in its unique trajectory of political, social and economic reform. Using China as an example of a region which has been largely ignored in contemporary social theory, this article enters the debate to contest the extent to which conjugal relationships are democratized in line with modernity. We further test the assertion that modern marriages are characterized by increased self‐disclosure and communication between partners. Data from a national survey on Chinese families is analysed in relation to the level of self‐disclosure between husbands and wives; gender division of housework; household decision‐making; and home ownership. We highlight the impact of gender, cohort and location (urban, rural or migrant) on experiences of modernity and draw attention to the material, social and cultural factors which continue to shape conjugal relations in contemporary Chinese society. Based on our findings, we contest the argument that disclosing intimacy between intimate partners is a defining characteristic of modern relationships, and suggest that other social factors may condition degrees of self‐disclosure in marriage. Similarly, we question the extent to which heterosexual conjugal equality is attained: the cultural practices and values of patrilineal family organization, together with material circumstances, continue to influence marital relations in China.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Conjugal intimacy, self‐disclosure, gender, cohort, urban‐rural divide, China
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > SOAS China Institute
ISSN: 14684446
Copyright Statement: © London School of Economics and Political Science 2017. This is the accepted version of an article published by Wiley in The British Journal of Sociology. Published version available from:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2018 08:11
Funders: European Union

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