© 2017

Gender, Sexuality and Power in Chinese Companies

Beauties at Work

  • Contributes to the development of global literature on gender, sexuality and work beyond the existing Euro-American model

  • Exposes new forms of gender inequalities in the Chinese workplace

  • Makes an essential and timely contribution to knowledge of the position of educated women in the new labour market in East Asia


Part of the Gender, Development and Social Change book series (GDSC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Liu Jieyu
    Pages 1-10
  3. Liu Jieyu
    Pages 55-71
  4. Liu Jieyu
    Pages 73-87
  5. Liu Jieyu
    Pages 89-106
  6. Liu Jieyu
    Pages 107-121
  7. Liu Jieyu
    Pages 123-141
  8. Liu Jieyu
    Pages 143-153
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 155-158

About this book


This book offers the first ethnographic account of the experiences of highly educated young professional women, hailed by the Chinese media as ‘white-collar beauties’. It exposes the organizational mechanisms – naturalization, objectification and commodification of women – that wield gendered and sexual control in post-Mao workplaces. Whilst men benefit from symbolic and bureaucratic power, women professionals skilfully enact indirect power in a game of domination and resistance. The sources of women’s subversion are grounded in their only-child upbringing which breaks the patrilineal base of familial patriarchy fostering an unprecedented ambition in personal development, gender as inherently relational and a role-oriented system, and inner-outer cultural boundaries as signifiers of moral agency. This raises a new feminist inquiry about the agents for social change. Through a nuanced analysis grounded in the socio-cultural locality, this book throws fresh light upon the ways in which gender, sexuality and power could be theorized beyond a Euro-American reality.


Gender Sexuality Work Organization China Power Naturalization Commodification Objectification Neoliberalism Subversion

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.SOAS University of LondonLondonUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Jieyu Liu is Deputy Director of the SOAS China Institute, SOAS University of London, UK. In 2015, she was awarded a five-year European Research Council grant to examine family and sexual relations in East Asia.

Bibliographic information


“This concise book is a welcome contribution to the understanding of highly educated young women in the labour market of China. … anyone eager to learn more about the lives of young, highly educated urban women in China will find this book an exciting resource. Researchers interested in a comparative analysis with other East Asian countries will find good material in this publication. Feminist scholars interested in gender and sexuality in a global context will find this book insightful.” (Amélie Keyser-Verreault, Anthropologica, Vol. 61, 2019)

“Gender, Sexuality, and Power in Chinese Companies is nevertheless a fascinating account of its milieu, backed by vivid ethnographic descriptions and indepth analysis. The author’s ability to cross disciplinary lines will make her book appeal not only to anthropologists and sociologists of China and East Asia but also to scholars of work, gender, and class in other parts of the world.” (Xinyan Peng, Anthropology of Work Review, Vol. 40 (1), 2019)

“Jieyu Liu’s book is well-structured, jargon-free and covers a wide range of the collectively shared experiences of the Only Child Generation in the inner and outer space. … The book will be of great value to scholars, students and non-academics interested in how urban young female professionals navigate the sexualized workplace. … Overall, the book offers valuable original insights that enrich the existing scholarship on gender and sexuality in the workplace in China and is certainly worth a read.” (Ling Tang, International Sociology Reviews, Vol. 33 (5), 2018)

“Beauties at Work offers a skillfully constructed and theoretically rich account of the experiences of a generation of women who have had unprecedented opportunities, as they confront thinly veiled gender limits to their mobility in the workplace. It should garner the attention of feminist scholars and be included on course lists for sociology of gender, work and economy course lists, as well as relevant courses in anthropology and China studies. It should also be of interest to a popular audience interested in Chinese organizations.” (Eileen Otis, The China Quarterly, Vol. 233, March, 2018)