Organized Panel Session
In 2011, three years after the 2008 uprising in Tibet, Chen Quanguo, the newly appointed party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), attempted to “buy” stability by initiating a “full employment” policy. This policy guarantees employment for all Tibetan college graduates who have official household residency (hukou) in Tibet. The availability of high-paying state jobs has prompted an unprecedented fervor for education in rural Tibet. These developments, however, present a dilemma for my rural interlocutors in Phenpo, a valley north of Lhasa: while parents want easier lives for their children as middle-class state employees rather than as farmers, they fear that no one will care for them in their old age. They thus resort to delaying the "formal" marriage of their uneducated children. This practice has resulted in the emergence of a pattern of “walking marriage” in which a legally married young couple with children live separately in their respective natal homes but visit each other regularly. “Walking marriage” happens when both members of the couple are considered the only source of eldercare for their parents. The couple waits indefinitely while their parents negotiate who is to marry into whose household. This parentally-imposed waithood is particularly difficult for young women, depriving them of the romantic domestic life they now desire. This paper explores how marriage has become a battlefield for eldercare in the context of ethnic policies, cultural ideals, demographic transition, and conflicting aspirations between parents and children as well as between men and women.