Under Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has brought back talk of family values and women’s importance as caretakers, messages that many women say are out of step with their thinking on when—or even whether—to marry.

The party has long prided itself on promoting gender equality, but also demands that households follow its priorities of the moment. The emphasis on women’s role in educating children and caring for the elderly comes as birth and marriage rates drop, trends that may have dire economic consequences.

In the early years of Communist rule, Mao Zedong urged women to join the workforce to help build the nation and to hold off on marrying and having children. Later came edicts that couples could have only one child to avoid runaway population growth.

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