Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Domestic Violence in Chinese Families: Cold Violence by Men towards Women

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Domestic Violence in Chinese Families: Cold Violence by Men towards Women

Article excerpt

Introduction

Western conceptualizations of individualism are represented by freedom, democracy and equality. When translating the notion of 'individualism' into Chinese understanding, it is best conceived as 'me-first-ism' and it implies a self-fulfillment ethic. Individualism has historically been criticized as subordinate to collectivism, however ideology in China has changed due to exponential economic transformation since the early 1990s (Li & Zhao, 2007; McLaren, 2016c; Meng, 2007). Rapid economic change, together with China's 1994 housing reforms (Liu, Winter, & Zilibotti, 2015), have made possible significant levels of individual accumulation of wealth (Meng, 2007). In this space the Chinese government has attempted to maintain a collectivist spirit that emphasizes communal goals and obligations over individualism and unrestricted capitalism (Du, Li, & Lin, 2015; Steele & Lynch, 2013). Maintaining a form of collectivism has been salutary to the rural and lower classes (Cheung & Leung, 2007), but China's contemporary market economy encourages entrepreneurialism in the interests of national prosperity (Wu, 2010; Zhao, 2008). As a result rapid economic growth has provided conditions in which socialist values and state control systems have weakened (Fang & Walker, 2015) and the individualist profit maximizing characteristic of 'me-first-ism', particularly in China's urban regions, has thrived.

Authors suggest that individualism is most observable among China's men who are urban living, of the one-child generations (2), who are educated and have achieved newfound success in the capital market (Shen & Wu, 2012; Sima & Pugsley, 2010; Sun & Wang, 2010). With respect to women, socialism attempted to reduce inequality in spheres such as urban employment and income (G. G. He & Wu, 2014; F. Wang, 2008) and the new socio-political order continues to emphasize gender equality (Chan, 2013). However, there remain historical influences of Confucianism in the Chinese social ethic and political ideology that keep patriarchy and men's privilege in place. These include traditional Confucian ideals relevant to class systems, heterosexuality and women's obedience to men (Cao, Yang, Wang, & Zhang, 2014; Jolly, 2011; Xia, Wang, Do, & Qin, 2014). As such, these ideals inform expectations of women's obedience and they remain a salient feature of Chinese society that continues to oppress women in all spheres of life.

In order for men to ensure women's subservience in marriage in a changing socioeconomic context, this paper explores the literature reporting on cold violence by men towards women; cold violence being an emotional form of domestic violence characterized by a complete withdrawal of all verbal and physical communication by one member of an intimate relationship towards the other, no warmth, no love and no care towards the other party in marriage. This form of domestic violence is said to enable abusive men to maintain financial control in marriage and to circumvent China's family and anti-domestic violence laws should women speak out or seek divorce. Cold violence is said to torture women mentally (D. M. Y. Tam et al., 2016), force women's subservience in marriage and render women incapable of achieving justice when seeking to terminate their marriages, as discussed later in this paper.

In drawing from a preliminary exploration of English and Chinese literature, coupled with the author's curiosity of cold violence from scholarly discussions when working in Beijing (3), this paper considers socio-political factors contributing to the emergent recognition of cold violence in urban China. In questioning why some men may resort to the complete withdrawal of all forms of communication towards their wives, the relatively small but growing quantity of literature available via English and Chinese language databases highlight complex interactions between cultural traditions, individualism, class systems, education, law and the men's aspirations to maintain luxury life. …

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