Sexual Politics of Reform and Opening Up

So 改革开放, gaige kaifang or ‘Reform and Opening Up’ is the term for China’s economic liberalization, which began in the mid-80s.

I think of 改革开放 often because whenever dating or love comes up among my students, they explain to me that foreign women are more 开放, or ‘open’ than Chinese women. When I told my roommate that I had sworn off one-night stands, she said, “I think you are really conservative!” She wasn’t talking about me as compared to her friends – she was expecting me as a foreigner to be more ‘open’. 

Another acquaintance said, “We Chinese are more pure as compared to you.” Still another: “You Western women are bolder than we Chinese.” (These were always after I explained some personal story of mine such as how I met my boyfriend or my friends’ dating habits). My friends are often saying this by way of explaining their personal desires to me, and they usually say it with pride.

As a result of these conversations, these days the phrase “Reform and Opening Up” to me seems to be full of potential for innuendo, and the link between new freedoms and danger.

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