Women’s Rights & Power in China

Modern Chinese Girl

Mao Zedong said: “Women hold up half the sky.”

In this, Mao posed himself in place of the world’s Women’s Rights Movement.

As opposed to all Western negative reports, Chinese women are changing China and the world.

From the social-economic front to the war front, we find women in China playing a significant role.

Confucian patriarchal hierarchy has been an impediment to women’s leadership in China, but not since Mao Zedong said that ”Women hold up half the sky”. . . a view of women as a resource that ought to be deployed outside the home – fueled the rise of many women in professional fields,” said A Report on Women’s Leadership in Asia, entitled “Rising to the Top?”

A young English teacher at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies has been dubbed "Goddess Sister" by students & netizens for her fresh & natural beauty.

As a result, Chinese women, who make up 49 percent of the population and 46 percent of the labor force, have achieved a higher proportion in the top layers of management than women in many Western countries, said the report which mostly analyzed data on gender equality and women’s leadership in the region.
”In China, gender equality embedded in communist ideology has mitigated the impact of Confucian patriarchy,” it said.

The findings of the report may be summed up: 

  • In East Asia, “China leads in terms of women in senior management.”

  • Some 29 million, a quarter of the national total of China’s entrepreneurs, are female.

  • The highest percentages of women employed in Asia are also in China.

  • Half of the 14 billionaires on Forbes magazine’s 2011 list of the world’s richest self-made women are from mainland China.
 Many of them are property magnates; the others focus on retail and consumer goods. 

  • “The pathway for female entrepreneurs tends to lead from excellent universities to high posts at large, state-owned enterprises, allowing women to build up business acumen, managerial skills, and networks that later enable them to raise capital for their new enterprises.”

  • Women in Asia are closing the gap with males in health, education, and employment, but are severely under-represented at top leadership levels, paid less than men, and disadvantaged by cultural and social norms.

Since 1949 China has promised women’s equality. “Women hold up half the sky,” Mao said. His revolution turned society and family upside down: It abolished family property, and replaced family-jobs patronage with a state bureaucracy. Mao put a final, nationwide end to the centuries-old practice of “foot binding.” For a time, communism was a girl’s best friend.

China’s 1950 marriage laws, for example, made men and women, at least theoretically, equal. They banned bride sales and concubines, and legalized divorce. For centuries men were allowed three or four wives, and women had no rights. It was a feudal world with brutally stark winners and losers. The film “Raise the Red Lantern,” with its bitter, subtle infighting among concubines vying for the attentions of a patriarch, captures something of those family dynamics.

According to Martin Whyte of Harvard University, “Changes in the Chinese family were imposed quickly and radically, In most societies these changes would take generations. In Mao’s China they were compressed into a time frame, really, of two or three years. Changes [involving women] are probably more important than the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution. By 1960, China had a ‘modern society’ in cities.”

Ironically, China is a developed country inside a developing country. Progress for women is found in cosmopolitan centers where law and culture are emphasized. Shanghai has always been a mecca for females. The mid-20th-century novels of Eileen Chang set in Shanghai that illustrate an independent voice for women are now extremely popular among college students.

In the metropolis, the family is undergoing a “permanent revolution.” The phrase is actually Mao’s. Courtship and choice between young people is more open – made possible by new wealth – new attitudes, and cellphones, and it is giving rise to new family types, the diminishing of patriarchy, and an often more confident and assertive female.

China’s patriarchy is a feudal holdover, scholars say, where land equals power. Male children inherited land. In an urban culture, where mobility is valued, and land is not an issue, female talents are more emphasized.

Changes of the nature as described above breed a different set of social problems, which can only be judged by time alone.

Recent Related Articles by Paul:

1. China’s First Lady-in-Waiting (Sun. 22 April 2012)

2. Fu Ying: “The West Has Become Very Conceited” (Tuers. 24 April 2012)

3. China’s Women Army (Werd. 25 April 2012)


2 thoughts on “Women’s Rights & Power in China

  1. martin chung

    This is well documented and it shows Mao’s leadership team had been wise and dignified. Women in other cultures had not been so fortunate and modern societies still have these issues on recognising women contribution to society.

  2. Pingback: Yeah, But I Am Not Chinese! « Life Behind The Wall

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