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Genetic testing, governance, and the family in the People's Republic of China


  • Sleeboom-Faulkner, Margaret Elizabeth


In western countries the rise of genetic testing has been accompanied by ethical arrangements like autonomy and informed consent that help to dissociate genetics from eugenic policies. However, critics have argued that this trend to increase individual choice should be considered as a neoliberal governance strategy to promote bio-citizenship. These western concepts are often used to discuss genetic testing in the Peoples Republic of China as well. China's population policy has a reputation for condoning eugenic practices and for ruthless one-child and family planning policies, but there have been many reforms recently, which, together with the revival and development of traditional religions and beliefs, have complicated the discussion about the meaning of the Chinese family. In this context, the introduction of genetic testing in China has been linked to state eugenics as well as post-reform neo-liberalist governance. Based on fieldwork and various archival and literature studies it explores genetic testing in five different Chinese contexts. The analysis makes clear that, although population planning in China proceeds from the idea that the planning of family health leads to a healthier population, traditional beliefs, individual initiative, group pressure, commercial organisations and state policies make for an amalgam of genetic testing practices that cannot be understood in terms of eugenics or liberal governance.

Suggested Citation

  • Sleeboom-Faulkner, Margaret Elizabeth, 2011. "Genetic testing, governance, and the family in the People's Republic of China," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(11), pages 1802-1809, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:11:p:1802-1809

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Susan Greenhalgh, 2003. "Science, Modernity, and the Making of China's One-Child Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 29(2), pages 163-196.
    2. Wertz, Dorothy C. & Fletcher, John C., 1998. "Ethical and social issues in prenatal sex selection: A survey of geneticists in 37 nations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 255-273, January.
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