‘I can live without you’: self-branding as individuation in young Chinese women’s transnational mobilities

Jiali Fan, Akane Kanai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In recent years, significant numbers of young middle-class Chinese women have moved abroad to construct an individual ‘biography’ beyond the unequal gendered expectations of the post-reform context. This article reports on a 2019 qualitative study combining interviews and visual analysis of WeChat and Instagram posts to consider how young Chinese women temporarily living in Australia maintain relationships with upper middle class family who have supported their daughters’ overseas ventures. In the wake of sweeping privatization which has encouraged parents to invest in their only children as their ‘only hopes’, online media has allowed parents to be ‘pervasively present’ for distant daughters in these transnational movements. We document participants’ curated self-branding for family on WeChat as a means of managing and negotiating this sometimes interventionist presence. Our participants’ practices reveal a complex juggling act: managing individual desires to optimize the overseas experience but carefully modulating such experience for the parental audience. Post-pandemic follow-up interviews in 2022 also suggest complications in the use of transnational mobility to extend the possibilities of flourishing, with parental pressure to return to a more proximate zone of surveillance in China. Such practices indicate the gendered contradictions young women face: pushed but also desiring to succeed individually in an unequal marketplace, while being further tethered to the family unit.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Chinese Women
  • daughters
  • intimacy
  • post-reform China
  • self-branding
  • transnational mobility
  • WeChat

Cite this