Why is China bothering small neighboring countries

China - Almost only old men in dark suits: Beijing has a problem for women

Almost only old men in dark suits: Beijing has a problem for women

Chinese women are strongly represented at the party base - but the political leadership is entirely in male hands. This also has to do with alcoholic dinners.

When China's 3,000 MPs are meeting these days at the National People's Congress, the video recordings of the mass event look like they have fallen out of time: Almost exclusively older men in dark suits and ties sit tightly packed in the Great Hall of the People. If you want to discover isolated women in the rows of seats, you have to search with a magnifying glass.

China's political leadership has always been in male hands. There has never been a female president in the People's Republic, nor has a female politician made it onto the standing committee of the Politburo since the state was founded in 1949. Even one level below, in the 25-person Politburo, there is currently only one woman to be found. Compared to the last Central Committee, the number of female members has decreased again.

The contrast with neighboring countries in the region couldn't be stronger: Myanmar, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore all already had female heads of state. Taiwan and Hong Kong are also currently ruled by women. For mainland China, however, this scenario seems almost unthinkable.

«Half of Heaven» promised

On the occasion of International Women's Day, which is also celebrated in China, the resume for the Middle Kingdom is mixed. State founder Mao Tse-tung once promised the Chinese women "half of heaven" in a much-quoted saying; and in fact the forefather of the Communist Party promoted the emancipation of the female population. But since then, China has fallen behind in most statistics. In the “Gender Gap Index” of the World Economic Forum, the country only ranks 106th.

Women have benefited far less from the rapid economic boom since the 1980s. Gender roles have also become more traditional again: According to the most recent representative survey by the All-China Women's Association from 2010, over 61 percent of all men and almost 55 percent of all women agreed that the male domain is in the public domain, whereas that of women is in the home .

A quarter of the employees are female

The participation of female party cadres at the lower level is comparatively high. Four out of ten members of the neighborhood committees that act as a link between the Communist Party and the population in residential complexes are women. A very similar picture emerges when you look at China's state-owned companies. Almost a quarter of all employees there are female, but only five percent on management levels.

There are many reasons for the omnipresent glass ceiling that prevents women from climbing. But young Chinese women repeatedly complain about patriarchal hierarchies in which only those who have good contacts and a rich network can rise. The relationships are mainly forged at alcoholic dinners, at which many women feel unwelcome.

In addition, professionally ambitious Chinese women are not infrequently viewed with skepticism: A woman with power is like a “hen that crows at dawn”, is a common saying that expresses the alleged collapse of traditional family values ​​through feminism.

Women became heroines in Wuhan

But precisely during the lockdown in Wuhan last spring, the social achievements of women were portrayed with particular attention in the state media. Because two thirds of the 42,000 doctors and helpers who kept the closed city running during the virus fight were women: They distributed masks, transported food deliveries to the locked houses and carried out fever measurements. The absolute majority of the “heroes” that the government had celebrated in its propaganda as posters at bus stations or in TV spots were women.

But whether this has triggered sustainable social change remains more than questionable. At least at the grassroots level, Chinese women have little leeway to advance their agenda. Because feminist movements are seen by the state leadership primarily as a potential threat to social stability.

In 2015, around five activists were temporarily arrested for campaigning against sexual harassment in local public transport. And when a screenwriter in “Me Too” fashion sued a powerful TV presenter for sexual assault last year, it sparked an impressive wave of solidarity among young women on social networks. However, the majority of the population did not notice any of this, because the conventional media were not allowed to report on the case.