Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Answers in history and culture

The revolution in China promoted gender equality, but that's not happened. Tom Phillips, writing for The Guardian, offers some explanations.

In China women 'hold up half the sky' but can't touch the political glass ceiling
“Times have changed … today men and women are equal,” Mao Zedong pronounced more than half a century ago. “Whatever men comrades can accomplish, women comrades can too.” Unless, of course, you mean running the country.

For not once since Mao’s communists took power in 1949 has a woman been appointed to China’s top political body, the politburo standing committee, let alone become the country’s top leader…

“Taiwan has a female president. Even Hong Kong has a female chief executive. But I think the Communist party would have to collapse before you actually saw a woman leading China as a country,” said Leta Hong Fincher, the author of a forthcoming book called Betraying Big Brother: China’s Feminist Resistance.

“All the signs indicate that the Communist party does not want women to have power. It wants women to return to the home and take care of the families…

Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, predicted that the [Standing Committee] would remain a club for the boys: “I think it’s going to be a pretty conservative group that is comfortable with the more authoritarian and politically repressive state-directed tendencies of Xi.”

Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that women “hold up half the sky” and they did enjoy unquestionable advances after the 1949 revolution, as China’s leader fought to simultaneously liberate women and harness their economic potential.

But women continue to play a peripheral role in Chinese politics. There are currently just two female faces on the party’s expanded 25-member politburo; only 10 of the 205 full members of its central committee are women, down from 13 in 2012…

“The absence of female voices in politics is a global phenomenon. But considering the communist regime flaunts the idea that ‘women hold up half the sky’, it hasn’t set the example it should have,” said Feng Yuan, a leading women’s rights campaigner…

Hong Fincher said a looming demographic crunch – which means that by 2050 more than a quarter of China’s population will be over 65 – had convinced Beijing that women were now needed more in the home than in the halls of power.

“Communist party leaders are extremely alarmed at the demographic trends in China so this is a big reason why they are pushing women into marrying and having babies,” said Hong Fincher. “They see women as just biological vessels to reproduce. Babies for the future of the nation.

“Women are better educated than ever before in Chinese history. So why isn’t the Communist party tapping into this incredible resource? I believe it’s because Communist party leaders fundamentally just see women’s roles as being wives and mothers.”…

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