2000 Student-Faculty Fellows: University Of San Diego

China: Dynamics and Dilemmas: The Case Study of the First Women’s Hotline in China

Mentor: Yi Sun, Department of History
Student Fellow: Karina Kirana, ’01, International Relations

Karina Kirana

The in-depth study of the Women’s Hotline in Beijing was an incredible experience. Through the research the student fellow has learned not only the wide range of issues that women in China have to deal with, particularly in the areas of marriage and family, but also developed a deep appreciation of Chinese history, culture, and society as a whole. She was extremely impressed with the persistence and dedication demonstrated by the founder of the hotline and its volunteer counselors in their efforts at improving women’s lives. Staying with a Chinese family enabled her to observe and participate in the daily lives of ordinary Chinese people, and was in itself a learning experience. The trips to Shanghai and the other historical and cultural sites were also very educational. The previous book knowledge about China that the student had acquired is no longer abstract information; instead, it has become real and meaningful to her. The research experience will have a huge impact on her life and future career goals. After graduating from the university, she will go to a law school, and specialize on international law. She intends to work in the area of public policy-making because she wants to be able to make a difference in helping formulate and implement public policies, particularly policies towards women, in different parts of the world.

Prof. Yi Sun

The faculty fellow has also benefited a great deal from the joint research project. The interviews that were conducted with the founder and the staff members at the women’s hotline, the live counseling sessions that she and her student attended, and the subsequent research at the archives and libraries, all serve to deepen her understanding of the dynamics and dilemmas in the lives of Chinese women in an era of dramatic economic changes. The dualistic nature of China’s modernization is evident in the ever-widening economic, social and cultural disparity in the country. The findings will further solidify and strengthen the faculty member’s existing research on the impact of modernization on urban Chinese women, as she can analyze the materials in a broader and more theoretical framework. The research will also benefit her teaching, for the translated case studies can serve as primary sources for her classes on contemporary China, and the slides taken during the trip can be used to enliven the students’ classroom learning experience. She will also be able to prepare a new course on the history of Chinese women. Moreover, equipped with fresh and updated knowledge, she can now deliver some of the invited presentations on China with more confidence and insight.

Research Findings

The student and faculty fellows have learned first-hand the crucial issues that Chinese women are confronted with, as well as the broader context of China’s economic, social and cultural changes. While some women have become professionally, and financially successful owing to the reform policies, others are increasingly burdened with the new found problems, such as unemployment, rising costs of medical care and their children’s education, growing rate of domestic violence and divorce. While some women are getting into prostitution willingly in order to make some “quick money,” others are abandoned by their boyfriends and new husbands when the latter found out that these women had lost their virginity. An outdated law still protects the so-called “military marriage,” which prevents wives of their abusive husbands in the army from seeking a divorce. It seems ironic that some achievements of gender equality during the Maoist era are in some ways compromised or offset during the era of economic modernization. These are just a few of the examples of our research findings.

Venues for Sharing

A poster display of their research findings and their overall experience this summer, will be placed in the University Center. They will also make presentations, either together or separately, to the Honors’ Program, the Student Research and Internship Program, the Senior Seminar, the Faculty Colloquium, and the Study Aboard Program. The student fellow plans to write an essay for the school newspaper Vista, and the faculty fellow will also make presentation to other organizations in the wider San Diego community. These activities will take place between late October and early May, 2001.