Communist China shuns women as men hoard all power

Jiang Qing marries China’s most powerful man, creates revolutionary operas and is celebrated for bringing to life films by the country’s greatest directors. But she was also blamed for sparking the excesses of the Cultural Revolution as part of the “Gang of 4”, who controlled the Communist party during tumultuous times.

Fifty years later, no Chinese woman has come closer to Mao’s power, as she became more known after her marriage to Mao Zedong.

As China’s 101-year-old Communist party announced new members of the politburo standing committee, its top-level leadership group under President Xi Jinping on Sunday, expected to be a mainly other men. While a handful of women have climbed the party ranks, none have ever made it to the seven-seat top committee.

The equal right of women to participate in politics is constitutionally protected China, but very few are appointed to powerful political positions. Only one person, the retired Covid tsar Sun Chunlan, has a seat in the 25-member politburo, despite the fact that women make up about 30% of party members.

“[There is a] Valarie Tan, an analyst on elite Chinese politics at Mercator’s Institute of China Studies in Berlin.

“This shows my not-so-optimistic view when it comes to the future of female leaders in the CCP.”

Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong's third wife, in the 'Gang 4' trial in 1981

Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s third wife, in the 1981 ‘Gang of 4’ trial © AFP

The three women are considered to be jockeying for the position of Deputy Prime Minister Sun. But some analysts say there is no guarantee that a woman will be appointed this year. It is a convention, not a rule, to put women’s names on the body, they say.

“The recognition of women’s rights has been part of China’s social development. . .[but]You don’t have much representation of women in politics in China, which means that women’s rights have always been very difficult to be really promoted as a political agenda,” Tan said.

Fengming Lu, an expert at the Australian National University, said that, aside from Chen Muhua, the former governor of the People’s Bank of China, few high-ranking women were even able to campaign for women to gain mainstream influence. greater value in recent years.

Mr. Xi has also pushed the party to go further towards a more traditional view of the family, and under his rule LGBTQI and feminist activists have been censored and prosecuted.

Minglu Chen, a lecturer at the Center for China Studies at the University of Sydney, said another obstacle is that female politicians risk being judged as immoral if they associate with men.

“Traditional gender stereotypes prevent women from building the social networks they will rely on to get ahead. . . Women [fear] become the target of slander”.

Chen shows how Wu Yi, a former politburo member who has been dubbed the “Iron Lady of China”, faces questions, such as why she is single, that politicians Men were never asked.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan is the only woman with a seat in China's politburo

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan is the only woman with a seat in China’s politburo © Xinhua News Agency / Shutterstock

Women also have to retire at 55 in China, narrowing their chances of making it into the top ranks of the party.

The party introduced a quota system in 2001, which provided for at least one woman to be appointed to most levels of government and party groups. But analysts say the rule has made no difference.

“So in a government department, or in a policy department, once they hit the quota for women, they stop,” Tan said.

The attitude is common throughout the organization. Zhong, who gave her surname only to remain anonymous, joined the party in 2005 while she was taking care of her 7-year-old child.

Zhong says the gender ratio of party members in the government unit where she works is 50-50 but most leadership positions are held by men.

“Women spend more time taking care of their families while spending less time advancing their careers. They naturally get less rewards at work,” said Zhong. “After all, China is a male-dominated society where women are always weaker.”

Mr. Xi himself said that the care and education of children is the responsibility of women during talks with the All-China Women’s Federation in 2013. “We need to give full play to the unique role of women. . . . uphold the family tradition,” he added.

Traditional folklore doesn’t help women’s cause either. According to Tan, a Chinese idiom says that a woman in power is like “a hen that heralds the dawn,” a harbinger of the overthrow of the natural order and the disintegration of the state.

The fact that the President of China does not have to answer before hundreds of millions of female citizens of the country in direct and free elections further limits the voice of women.

“The CCP is not responsible, not controlled by competition or inter-party elections, or the need to appeal to voters,” said Chen of the University of Sydney.

“The Communist Party has always been a patriarchal institution led by men. . . There has really never been a consideration for women’s self-determination and needs.”

Additional reporting by Nian Lu in Beijing


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