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Politics of Cross-Straits Marriages in Taiwan, 1992-2004

With Ms Melody Chia Wen Lu (University of Leiden)

Series:  London Taiwan Seminar|

Date: Thursday 24 January 2008, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room 116, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Chair: Mr Stuart Thompson (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)

Abstract

Since the late 1980s, the number of cross-strait marriages has increased rapidly. Currently there are 250,000 mainland Chinese spouses, constituting 65% of the 'foreign' spouses in Taiwan. 'Foreign brides' (waiji xinniang) and 'mainland brides' are both seen as 'inferior others', and there are distinctive mechanisms of social exclusion of mainland spouses in policy and popular images. Although there is huge scholarly interest concerning the 'foreign brides' and their children, the issue of cross-strait marriages receives considerably less attention.

This presentation will discuss the political and social citizenship of mainland spouses in the context of cross-strait interaction, changing national identity and the influx of migrant labourers and wives into Taiwan. By examining the positions of different political and non-governmental social actors during the period 1992-2004, I will analyse both the construction of images of mainland spouses in the media and the political debates on policies regulating different aspects of the lives of cross-strait families. Debates prior to the mid-1990s show that the cultural concept of family union overrode concerns for national security and identity, while in the later part of the 1990s the dominant concerns were social integration and the social rights of mainland spouses. However, since 2000, the popular image of mainland spouses has taken a negative turn. In the midst of the political hostility against China and growing Taiwanese nationalism, mainland Chinese spouses are not treated as the 'enemy others', but they are increasingly associated with prostitution and bogus marriage. I argue that the criteria for the social acceptance of mainland spouses is based on their gender roles as mothers, daughters-in-law and care-givers, and so the image of the "bad woman" is used to discredit them. Mainland spouses and cross-strait families actively adopt these gender roles to win the acceptance of Taiwanese society through collective action.

About the speaker

Ms Melody Lu Chia-wen is a PhD candidate at the Research Centre for Asian, African and Amerindian Studies (CNWS), Leiden University. In her dissertation entitled Gender, Marriage and Migration: contemporary marriages between mainland China and Taiwan,she looks at the multifaceted aspects of cross-strait marriages: the structural factors of rural-urban and international migration in China and Taiwan, changing marriage regimes and cultural practices, immigration policy and popular discourse in the host society, the marriage brokers/intermediaries and the negotiation strategies of migrants and their families. Currently she is a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in the Netherlands and coordinates a research project, Gender, Migration and Family in East and Southeast Asia. She is the co-editor of the book Cross-border Marriage Migration in East and Southeast Asia: socio-demographic patterns and issues (forthcoming, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press). Prior to her academic involvement she worked at various NGOs in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines on the issues of gender, migration and sex work in Asia.

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