Research Blog

This week, I continued to work on forming the part of my paper that focuses on the specific policies of the Reform and Opening Period. I’m going to keep working on it this upcoming week because I’m still missing a few aspects of it. I have also been looking up more primary sources to use. Once I began writing the first draft of my paper two weeks ago, I found holes in my paper where I wanted to include primary sources but did not have primary sources that would fit best. I have found more speeches given by Deng Xiaoping on the reforms and what he intended for them to do. I have also tried to find an archive in the area that has documents from this era, but I have not found one yet. I’m going to continue to look for more primary sources this week and hopefully find an archive that will have some. I also worked on the organization of my paper this week. When I first began writing it, I felt that it was very disorganized and difficult to follow. However, this week I focused on reorganizing a few things so it would be easier to follow. I have also been working on correcting the passive voice in my paper. I tried to go to the writing center this week, but I did not have enough time. Therefore, I plan to take what I have done so far to the writing center to see how I can improve it this upcoming week.

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This week I had a set back with my research. I was sick most of the week so I unfortunately didn’t accomplish as much as I planned to. When working on the first mini draft this week, I had some organization and structuring issues that I was trying figure out. I also had some trouble writing the draft because I did not know where to start at first. Therefore, I think the first draft came out a little disorganized and had many holes in information. I plan to remedy that this week with the second draft. Besides working on the first mini draft this week, I found a few more secondary and primary sources I plan to use in my final paper. I have been able to find more sources that I hope will help to plug a few of the information holes the first draft had. I’ve also been going back to many of the sources I have used before in order to look over that information again to see if I could use it to plug any of the information holes.

For the second mini draft, I have been working on explaining the Reform and Opening Period economic policies better. The first draft I wrote did not include much about the policies, so it has been my goal for this week to go more in depth into these policies in my paper. I hope that by doing this it provides more background for understanding why the policies were enacted and what they were intended to do.

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This week, I worked on my outline and first two paragraphs, as well as found a few more sources I plan to use for my final paper. Doing the outline helped me to find any missing holes in my research, which I have been working on filling. I have done more research and found more sources to build my section on the Mao and Post-Mao period to show the differences between the two and how women’s rights were affected after the Post-Mao era. In the Mao period, I have highlighted the many rights women received and how these rights were written into the Chinese Communist Constitution. Both my peer-review partners suggested providing more background on the Mao and Post-Mao, because not many people know too much about them. Therefore, I have been working on editing and providing more information on these two periods and the differences between them. Some of the sources I have found previously, such as “Personal Voices,” have good information on both periods, so I plan to use that as a source for this section, as well as a few others I have found after I began editing the section. The outline also helped because it helped me form my main arguments and determine any information I still need to research. For example, I am still working on researching the women’s organizations during this period to show the impact that they had.

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This week, I have been gathering more sources to finish forming my outline for my paper. Using the references from the sources I have found so far, I have been able to find more primary sources and economic data. From this, I have found speeches from notable members of the Chinese Communist Party on the new economic policies being put into place. These speeches describe the intentions of many of the economic policies, which has helped me to better form an analysis of these reforms. I have also been researching more into the representation women had in politics. “Continuity and change: women’s representation in reform-era Chinese politics” by Edmund Downie has been an informational source and has also led me to other good sources. Downie’s article led me to “A Preliminary Exploration of Mao Zedong’s Thoughts on Women’s Rights” by Mao Zedong. This has helped me in better understanding the beliefs about women’s rights and their roles in society that Mao Zedong had. This is important because under Mao, women gained more rights than they had had before, and the Reform and Opening Period resulted in the loss of many of those new freedoms they gained. “Women’s Political Participation in China: Struggling to Hold Up Half the Sky” by Jude Howell has also been an important source. It has been cited many times, so it will help me when I revise my historiography. Howell provides more information on women’s roles in politics and includes more information on how rural and urban women were involved differently.

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This week, I have been researching more primary sources. Using the many of the secondary sources I have found, I have looked at the references used in them. Work and Family in Urban China: Women’s Changing Experience Since Mao by Jiping Zuo has provided many useful primary and secondary sources that I have been researching more into. Her sources have included both interviews and economic data that will be helpful in providing evidence for my paper. The Readings of Series of Important Speeches by the General Secretary of Xi Jinping written by Xi Jinping has provided more information on the economic plans and policies that went into effect in the Reform and Opening Period. In these speeches, Xi describes what the policies were originally intended to do. Also, “How to Correctly Assess Two 30-years Before and During the Reform” by Hong Mei has helped me to better understand the economics of the policies and what they both achieved and did not achieve. Reading this, especially alongside Xi Jinping’s speeches, has helped me to form a better background of the reasons for implementing the policies that were implemented and the long-term economic effects of them.

I have also kept working on my outline. This has helped me to better layout how I plan to write my paper, as well as helped me to find any holes in my research that I need to explore in order to have a thorough final paper. For example, I have started looking more into the feminist groups that campaigned against the policies and the effect that they had.


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This week, I found a very informative book to help further my research. Work and Family in Urban China: Women’s Changing Experience Since Mao by Jiping Zuo discuss the state-socialist era from 1949-1980s, which is considered the Mao period, to the 1990s-Present, which is referred to as the Market Reform period. The Reform and Opening Period takes place in the 1980s, and this book discusses how this period had a lasting impact on women’s lives in China, which can still be seen today. It shows different sides of the story, with some arguments being that women were worse off during the Mao period because they were expected to both work and still take on all housework, while others argued that this was not the case and the Mao period allowed for a more gender equality than any other period in Chinese history. Jiping includes interviews from women lived during these period and who argue both cases. It also makes a point to discuss how urban and rural women were effected differently by the Reform and Opening period, which not many other articles and books discuss.

I also found an article titled “Women’s Employment Rights in China: Creating Harmony for Women in the Workforce” by Jamie Burnett. In this article, Burnett explains gender-based discrimination in the workforce in China and the different policies throughout contemporary Chinese history that assisted in gaining women more rights. She also argues about how female migrant workers experienced the most discrimination, which I can refer to when discussing how how rural and urban women had different experiences when it came to this period in my paper.

Another article I will use as a reference for my paper is “‘State Feminism’? Gender and Socialist State Formation in Maoist China” by Zheng Wang. In this article, Zheng discusses the Shanghai branch of the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) and role it had in socialist urban China. It was one of the only organizations to reach both rural and urban women and help to mobilize both. Zheng references a few of interviews from members of this mass organization, which I plan to research more.

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During my research this week, I started trying to form a historiography of my topic by looking at different sources from the 1980s and 1990s. I found a few that would work well. These would help me form my historiography because they show those during that time thought how the Reform and Opening Period affected women’s rights. I also began researching more interviews from people who lived during this period. More specifically, I am researching those who lived during both the Mao period and the Reform and Opening Period to show how greatly women were affected by the new economic policies put into place after Mao died. I found an interview with an artist who left China to come to the United States in the 1990s.

I also began researching the articles my partner recommended to me after we did the research proposal assignment. They were “Chinese Women Under the Economic Reform: Gains and Losses” by Jing Lin and “Half of the Sky, but not yet Equal: China’s Feminist Movement” by Alice C. Hu. Both sources provided more insight into what women both gained and loss during this period. “Half the Sky” showed the different feminist movements, what they did, and how it impacted Chinese women. They have both been very helpful in doing my research. I plan to spend more time looking into the Chinese feminist movements and looking at the economic policies this week. 

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While doing research this week, I found a book in the Temple library titled Women and Gender in Twentieth-Century China by Paul J. Bailey. This book provides a good background and overview of the political, cultural, and social changes that affected women’s lives between 1897, starting with the ‘woman question’ of the turbulent period before the Chinese Civil War,’ to the post-Mao and, what is considered to be, the Reform and Opening Period. It also includes many bibliographical references which I plan to explore more to find more relevant resources.  

I also found a article titled “Women’s Employment in Hubei Province Since the Implementation of ‘Reform and Opening Up.’” This article focuses on the way that women’s rights have changed since the Reform and Opening period began and the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, began implementing new economic policies. It describes how even though equal rights for women were written into the Chinese constitution, women were still being discriminated against, especially when trying to find employment. It also discusses how, during this period, the Chinese government tried to implement for policies that would help women politically and socially. It provides data on how these policies affected women by 1998. It was written in 1998, so it will also help with forming a historiography of my topic.

Below I is a link to a picture from a pre-Reform and Opening period propaganda campaign, which shows how women were being included alongside men.

Statement of Purpose – Audrey Sorber

My name is Audrey Sorber. I am a senior history major and political science minor. I transferred from the University of Pittsburgh after my freshman year, and I entered into Temple with an undeclared major. I always had an interest in history, and after taking a few classes in the history department, I decided to pursue a history major. I am most interested mainly in global history, particularly Chinese and Southern African history. I enjoy learning about different cultures and languages. I think this helps to understand the history of different countries better. After I graduate in May, I plan to volunteer with the Peace Corps in Botswana as a Life Skills Educator. After that, I would like to attend law school focusing on international law.

For my capstone project, I intend to research the Reform and Opening period in Chinese history. This period had a large impact on China today because it began to undo many of the policies that Mao Zedong implemented when he was Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. I plan to especially focus on how women were affected during this period. During the years prior to the Reform and Opening period, women had steadily been gaining more and more rights, allowing them to gain more freedom. For example, the government began encouraging more and more women to pursue careers, instead of being restricted to only being housewives. This allowed for more women to have access to education and other resources, leading them to have more independence. However, during the Reform and Opening period, many of these new rights and freedoms were restricted or taken away. I plan to explore the effect this had on Chinese women and the country as a whole.