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Little Emperors and Material Girls: Sex and Youth in Modern China

Little Emperors and Material Girls: Sex and Youth in Modern China
Jemimah Steinfeld

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China is the world's fastest-growing economic powerhouse. Everybody knows this. But behind the headlines a once-in-a-generation sexual and cultural revolution is taking place - all in the bars, cafes and streets of China's growing mega-cities. Welcome to this new China. Writer and journalist Jemimah Steinfeld meets the young people behind the world's fastest-moving nation to unveil their attitudes towards love, life and sexuality. Young Chinese have new words to describe the world they live in: 'little emperors' - single men who have grown up under the one child policy - they're bossy and selfish; 'bare branches' - those without children; 'leftovers' - women over twenty-six who aren't married; 'comrade' - how the gay community identifies itself; 'love markets' - weekend gatherings across China where parents attempt to find husbands and wives for their children, and others show up to match-make young singles and even offer boyfriends for hire.Jemimah Steinfeld introduces the people at the heart of this world, from the woman starting China's first online dating agency to the mistresses of the rich and powerful; from the company trying to sell sex toys to China's middle-classes to the sino-punks of Beijing's bar scene.

Little Emperors and Material Girls is the book which will change the way you see China.

Author Info

Jemimah Steinfeld is a journalist who has worked and lived in China. She holds an MA from SOAS in China Studies and has written for The Global Times in China. A freelance writer and journalist, she writes regularly as a China correspondent for CNN, Time Out and at The Huffington Post, as well as for various print and online outlets on feminism, dating and fashion.


‘This is a radical, enlivening cherry-bomb of a book. It brings something completely new to the current glut of publications about contemporary China. Steinfeld has spoken to hundreds of young, ambitious, hungry, confused, rebellious Chinese girls and boys, breaking taboos, getting personal and political. In doing so she reflects China as it really is, from the inside out, free of foreigners’ speculation and rooted in the dynamic and contradictory social, economic and personal forces which are driving the hungriest and most rapidly transforming society in the world. This is a must-read for everyone from Sinophiles to sexophiles.’
Bidisha, journalist and broadcaster

‘Jemimah Steinfeld’s fresh and original book is outstanding. It shows us the hidden corners of Chinese society, where today’s young Chinese are fighting for independence – torn between tradition and a fast-changing society, and confused by what they should want and who they should be.’
Xinran, author of The Good Women of China

‘China’s new generation will shape the global future. With insight and empathy, Jemimah Steinfeld portrays a generation caught between worlds, but striving to make their own.’
James Palmer, journalist at ChinaFile and author of The Death of Mao

‘entertaining and fast-paced’
Emily Baum, Times Literary Supplement

‘address[es] key concerns affecting how young women and men relate to each other in a world riddled with mixed gender messages’
Sarah Karacs, South China Morning Post
‘a breath of fresh air... her findings are shocking and speak volumes about the gulf that exists between Eastern and Western ideas of identity... a must-read for anyone who wants to know what young Chinese kids really think about sex, relationships and romance.’
Charlotte Middlehurst, Time Out Shanghai
'Steinfeld skilfully weaves lively accounts of her interactions with Beijing's youth with references to government policy and pronouncements, both current and in the recent past, as well as to more detailed sociological studies to produce a highlight readable book which is much more than casual journalism...'
Jane Haile, New York Journal of Books

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781780769844
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2015
Number of Pages: 256
Height: 198
Width: 129

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