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Issue 50 (July 2003)
James Farrer and Sun Zhongxin
Extramarital Love in Shanghai
Based on interviews with 69 Shanghai residents involved in extramarital affairs, this paper discusses how ordinary Shanghai people experience and describe extramarital affairs in the reform era. The guiding methodological premise is that people justify sexual affairs differently in different social contexts, producing narratives that may be appropriate for one type of social context, but inappropriate in another. The research showed that Chinese people access multiple cultural codes in explaining and justifying their affairs, including a code of "play" appropriate to dance halls and internet chat rooms, a code of "romantic feelings" appropriate to the "two person world" of the love affair, and a code of "responsibility" when facing issues involving the spouse and family. Switching codes allowed participants in affairs to manage their affairs across social contexts, but could also produce emotional conflicts and contradictions that eventually led to divorce or to the end of the affair. Far from being an amoral interaction based on crass material or sexual exchanges, the affair is a morally charged event in which people place great worth on responsibilities and loyalties incurred through sexual and emotional engagements. The changing social contexts of reform-era China, especially the advent of commercial leisure and the changing nature of the work place, allow married people greater room for the development of extramarital attachments.
Mao's War Against Nature? The Environmental Impact of the Grain-First Campaign in China
It is generally assumed that agricultural policies in Maoist China - in particular through mass movements - have led to grave ecological destruction. The movement that is often alleged to have had the most catastrophic outcome is the "Grain-first campaign", which supposedly led, especially in arid pastoral areas, to indiscriminate land reclamation that in turn is said to have resulted in desertification and a dramatic drop in livestock numbers. However, this article demonstrates that in recent decades there has been a fundamental misrepresentation of the Grain-first movement, with a juggling of statistics to support an inaccurate reading of the Maoist era. The article presents considerable evidence showing that the Grain-first campaign and its consequences were in fact quite different from what is claimed today.
Isabelle Thireau and Hua Linshan
The Moral Universe of Aggrieved Chinese Workers: Workers'Appeals to Arbitration Committees and Letters and Visits Offices
This article examines the normative repertoire used by Chinese workers to interpret the reality they face, focusing on the sense of injustice expressed by workers addressing two different institutions: arbitration committees (zhongcai weiyuanhui) and Letters and Visits Offices (xinfangke). The data used consist of files selected from the archives of the Labour Bureau of the Shenzhen municipal government. Each of the two institutions serves a somewhat different constituency of aggrieved employees. The arbitration committees are resorted to most frequently by employees with some financial means and standing, while the Letters and Visits Offices are turned to more frequently by groups of marginalized, impoverished workers. For this latter group, the Offices provide not just a means to challenge specific violations of their legal rights, but more than this, to focus on the political and social norms they believe should be applicable to the workplace. Such arguments are often expressed in appeals that focus on diverse state regulations, and the state has been brought under pressure to act in conformity with these.