Jie Yang is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Simon Fraser University. She was trained in linguistic anthropology, and her current research focuses on psychological/medical anthropology. She has done research on privatisation, unemployment, mental health, psychotherapy, happiness, and the politics of gender and class in contemporary China. She is author of two monographs: Unknotting the Heart: Unemployment and Therapeutic Governance in China (Cornell University Press 2015, winner of Francis Hsu Book Prize of American Anthropological Association) and Mental Health in China: Change, Tradition, and Therapeutic Governance (Polity Press 2017). She is editor of The Political Economy of Affect and Emotion in East Asia (Routledge 2014). She has recently started a new project on the mental health of government officials.
The rate of suicides among Chinese officials has been growing in recent years. According to media reports, these officials decide to end their lives because they suffer from psychomedical conditions, including excessive pressure, anxiety, and depression. Still, medical causes might not be enough to explain such a disturbing phenomenon. In this essay, Jie Yang argues that Chinese bureaucratic culture, particularly the workings of ‘hidden rules’, as well as complex power struggles and gender norms, play a fundamental role in causing these deaths.