SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Dr Jieyu Liu

PhD (York, UK)
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Jieyu Liu
SOAS China Institute

Deputy Director, SOAS China Institute

Centre for Gender Studies


Dr Jieyu Liu
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4899
Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)
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Jieyu Liu is Reader in Sociology of China and Deputy Director of SOAS China Institute at SOAS University of London. Her research interests include gender, sexuality, family and generation in China. Her first monograph Gender and Work in Urban China: Women Workers of the Unlucky Generation (Routledge 2007) was concerned with the gendered impact of China’s economic reforms upon women from the Cultural Revolution Generation. It examined women’s experiences in the socialist work unit (danwei, the institution through which the urban population was organized, housed and regulated). It demonstrated that the interconnection of the public and private spheres endorsed by the socialist work unit resulted in another form of segregation and subordination for women. Her latest monograph Gender, Power and Sexuality in Chinese Companies: Beauties at Work (Palgrave 2016) explored the performance of emotional, aesthetic and sexual labour within the organizational cultures of Chinese companies and examined the situation facing young educated women who had to negotiate a sexualized work culture in a society where women’s sexuality is strictly moralized and rarely discussed. Her recent research has expanded into contributing to the understanding of rapid demographical transitions and social change in China – this appeared in leading journals such as Sociology, British Journal of Sociology, Geoforum and Journal of Aging Studies. In 2015, she was awarded a five-year European Research Council grant to examine changing family relations in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Through a multi-sited ethnography, this project is the first of its kind to compare family practices in various sites and examine how they are the by-products of particular socio-cultural configurations.


PhD Students supervised
  • Biye Gao, Gender, Class and Reproduction in Post-Socialist Rural China (working title)
  • Nina Sun, Intra-household Gender Relations and Modern Marriage Ideal in urban China
  • Yuan Zhong, How do gender norms influence the marriages between tongzhi and tongqi?
I am interested in supervising students seeking to undertake feminist sociological research in China, as well as those wishing to work elsewhere in the world who are interested in the broader themes of gender, sexuality, and development.  


Women and gender in China; gender and work; sexuality and organizations; migration; gender and intergenerational relations; ageing and family transitions; unemployment; social policy and welfare reforms in China. 

Member of UK Economic and Social Research Council Peer Review College
Member of British Sociological Association

Current project
Doing Intimacy: A Multi-sited Ethnography of Modern Chinese Family Life (Principal Investigator, funded by European Research Council, 2015-2020)
This project will provide the first comprehensive study of practices of intimacy in Chinese families, their intertwining with gender and intergenerational dynamics, and interrelations with local and global change. The research will be rooted in case studies of Chinese communities in urban and rural China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. These sites have been selected to bring to the fore how particular socio-economic- political and cultural configurations feature in intimate family practices. The project will provide sophisticated answers to complicated questions such as 'How are Chinese families changing and adapting to wider social changes?' and ‘How do different socio-economic and political configurations shape family behaviours?’

Previous projects
Gender and unemployment in urban China

I explored the gendered implications of economic reforms by collecting the life histories of older women workers who had been made redundant during the economic restructuring.  I examined their experiences in the danwei (work unit) during the pre-reform period in China, and the role the danwei played as arbiter in the career and the personal lives of its employees. I argued that the highly interventionist role of the work unit continued the patriarchal role of pre-socialist institutions in shaping and constraining the life opportunities of women. Indeed, the study has shown that the women workers from the Cultural Revolution Generation had borne the brunt of sufferings accompanying China’s socio-economic development (see Liu 2006, Liu 2007a, Liu 2007b).

White-collar beauties in urban China (Principal Investigator, funded by British Academy 2008)

I examined the sexualization and aestheticization of white-collar work in urban China and identified new forms of inequality in the Chinese workplace. Through ethnography of Chinese companies, I showed that women’s sexuality had become a commercial resource deliberately initiated and developed by their organizations. However, as women’s sexuality was strictly moralized, the Chinese white-collar beauties ended up walking a fine line between respectability and disreputability (see Liu 2008, Liu 2013).

Ageing in rural China (Principal Investigator, funded by Economic and Social Research Council 2011-2013)

This recently completed project examined the impact of rural-urban migration on familial support for older people in rural China. Through in-depth studies of two rural villages, this project examined the extent to which rural-urban migration has reshaped expectations and experiences of familial support in old age and explored whether and how intergenerational relations had been transformed by migration.


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Available for
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Regional Expertise
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Country Expertise
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Authored Books

Liu, Jieyu (2016) Gender, Sexuality and Power in Chinese Companies: Beauties at Work. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Liu, Jieyu (2007) Gender and Work in Urban China: Women Workers of the Unlucky Generation. Abingdon: Routledge.


Liu, Jieyu (2022) 'Childhood in Urban China: A Three-Generation Portrait'. Current Sociology, (70) 4, pp 598-617.

Liu, Jieyu and Cook, Joanne (2020) 'Ageing and intergenerational care in rural China: a qualitative study of policy development'. Contemporary Social Science, (15) 3, pp 378-391.

Liu, Jieyu and Bell, Eona and Zhang, Jiayu (2019) 'Conjugal intimacy, gender and modernity in contemporary China'. British Journal of Sociology, (70) 1, pp 283-305.

Liu, Jieyu (2017) 'Intimacy and Intergenerational Relations in Rural China'. Sociology, (51) 5, pp 1034-1049.

Liu, Jieyu (2016) 'Beauties at Work: Sexual Politics in a Chinese Professional Organization'. NAN NÜ: Men, Women and Gender in China, (18) 2, pp 326-349.

Liu, Jieyu (2016) 'Ageing in rural China: migration and care circulation'. The Journal of Chinese Sociology, (3) 9, pp 1-19.

Cook, Joanne and Liu, Jieyu (2016) 'Can ‘distant water … quench the instant thirst’? The renegotiation of familial support in rural China in the face of extensive out migration'. Journal of Aging Studies, (37), pp 29-39.

Liu, Jieyu (2014) 'Ageing, migration and familial support in rural China'. Geoforum, (51), pp 305-312.

Liu, Jieyu (2007) 'Gender dynamics and redundancy in urban China'. Feminist Economics, (13) 3-4, pp 125-158.

Liu, Jieyu (2006) 'Researching Chinese Women's Lives: 'Insider' Research and Life History Interviewing'. Oral History, (34) 1, pp 43-52.

Liu, Jieyu (2004) 'Holding Up the Sky? Reflections on Marriage in Contemporary China'. Feminism & Psychology, (14) 1, pp 195-202.

Edited Books or Journals

Liu, Jieyu and Yamashita, Junko, (eds.), (2019) Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies. London: Routledge.

Jackson, Stevi and Liu, Jieyu and Mei, Xiao, (eds.), (2016) Ageing and Intergenerational Relations in Contemporary Chinese Societies. Journal of Chinese Sociology: Springer.

Liu, Jieyu, (ed.), (2014) Social Transformation in China. London: Routledge. (Critical Concepts in Asian Studies).

Zhu, Ying and Liu, Jieyu and Huang, Ya-chien, (eds.), (2011) 西方女性研究 [Women's Studies in the West]. Beijing: China Renmin University Press.

Jackson, Stevi and Liu, Jieyu and Woo, Juhyun, (eds.), (2008) East Asian sexualities : modernity, gender and new sexual cultures. London: Zed Books.

Book Chapters

Liu, Jieyu (2017) 'Ageing in rural China: State, family and gendered care responsibilities'. In: Carrillo, Beatriz and Hood, Johanna and Kadetz, Paul, (eds.), Handbook of Welfare in China. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp 285-296.

Liu, Jieyu (2015) 'Gender and Sexuality'. In: Zang, Xiaowei, (ed.), Understanding Chinese Society (second edition). London: Routledge, pp 53-66.

Liu, Jieyu (2013) 'White-collar workers: gender and class politics in an urban organization'. In: Chen, Minglu and Goodman, David, (eds.), Middle Class China: Identity and Behaviour. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, pp 75-89.

Liu, Jieyu (2012) 'Mothers’ Pasts and Daughters’ Presents and Futures: A Cross-generational Exploration of Women’s Work and Aspirations in Urban China'. In: Afshar, H., (ed.), Women and Fluid Identities Strategic and Practical Pathways Selected by Women. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp 9-31.

Liu, Jieyu (2011) '中国城镇的社会性别变化与劳动整合的案例分析'. In: Berik, Gunseli and Dong, Xiaoyuan and Summerfield, Gale, (eds.), 中国经济转型与女性经济学. Beijing: Economic Science Press, pp 104-126.

Liu, Jieyu (2011) 'Life goes on: redundant women workers in Nanjing'. In: Carrillo, Beatriz and Duckett, Jane, (eds.), China's Changing Welfare Mix: Local Perspectives. London: Routledge, pp 82-103.

Liu, Jieyu (2011) '女性与工作'. In: Zhu, Ying and Liu, Jieyu and Huang, Ya-chien, (eds.), 西方女性研究. Beijing: China Renmin University Press, pp 110-124.

Takeda, Hiroko and Liu, Jieyu and Yamashita, Junko (2011) 'Economic restructuring and changing work/family life: the cases of Japan and China'. In: Hwang, Gyu-Jin, (ed.), New Welfare States in East Asia: Global Challenges and Restructuring. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, pp 125-154.

Liu, Jieyu (2009) 'The Stratification of Youth Employment in Contemporary China'. In: Furlong, Andy, (ed.), Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood: New Perspectives and Agendas. London: Routledge, pp 182-187.

Liu, Jieyu (2008) 'Sexualized Labour? 'White-collar Beauties' in Provincial China'. In: Jackson, Stevi and Liu, Jieyu and Woo, Juhyun, (eds.), East Asian Sexualities: Modernity, Gender and New Sexual Cultures. London: Zed Books, pp 85-103.

Jackson, Stevi and Liu, Jieyu and Woo, Juhyun (2008) 'Reflections on Gender, Modernity and East Asian Sexualities'. In: Jackson, Stevi and Liu, Jieyu and Woo, Juhyun, (eds.), East Asian Sexualities: Modernity, Gender and New Sexual Cultures. London: Zed Books, pp 1-30.


Liu, Jieyu (2017) 'Population Ageing in China'.

Liu, Jieyu (2015) 'Gender Inequalities at Work in Urban China' University of Nottingham China Policy Institute Blog.

Liu, Jieyu (2015) '点评中国:中国延迟退休不能一刀切' BBC Chinese Column.

Liu, Jieyu (2015) 'An Age-Old Question' Focus.

Liu, Jieyu (2014) 'Ageing, Migration and Intergenerational Relations in Rural China' Discovery Society [Online].

Liu, Jieyu (2013) 'Ageing and Migration in Rural China' East Asia in 2013: A Region in Transition.


This list was last generated on Friday, 1st July 2022, 21:38 Europe/London.