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China’s Politics Need a Facelift

Representation is something we should strive to see in every political party. Unfortunately, we are seeing no improvements when it comes to the representation of women in China’s Communist political party.

In its eighth decade of power, it is unlikely that few, if any, women will be chosen to represent the party. Furthermore, not once since the Communists came to power in 1948 has a woman sat on the party’s highest body.

The seven-member Politburo Standing Committee now led by President Xi Jinping and the 25-member Politburo together have just two women. This demonstrates a clear discrepancy between the representation of women and China’s constitutional commitments to gender equality.

To make things even more complicated for women, laws state that they must retire up to 10 years earlier than men. This is due to the fact that it is assumed that women will be the caregivers for grandchildren and elderly relatives.

Notions such as these clearly put women at a huge disadvantage for progression in their careers and take away their ability to excel in what they want to pursue.

Guo Jianmei is a longtime women’s right advocate at the Qianqian Law Firm in Beijing.

Jianmei and a group of fellow lawyers and feminists are rushing to complete a document which urges the Communist Party to promote more women to leadership positions. The advocates hope to distribute the document to party leaders to stimulate discussion before the congress, Ms. Guo said in an interview.

She has said, “It’s unusual for members of civil society to raise an issue with the party like this.”

Jianmei has been standing up to Congress for a long time, and it is clear that she and her peers will not stop there. In the past, they have also appealed to China’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress.

Now it is their first time approaching the supremely powerful party. Although it is not an easy road ahead, Guo notes, “At least it’s doing something.”

Cheng Li, the director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, recently wrote in an essay that “it would take a miracle for a woman to become head of the People’s Republic of China in the foreseeable future.”

Leta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, also stated in an email, “I would be shocked if a woman were named to the Standing Committee.”

Fincher explains, I believe the government has no intention of doing anything substantive to improve its dismal record on women’s political representation. Instead, China is merely giving lip service to gender equality in order to appear more responsible as it vies for a more prominent global leadership role.”

This again points to an evident lack of progression for women that want to get involved and make changes in the Chinese political world.

However, this does not mean the fight stops here. There will continue to be women such as Jianmei pushing for more involvement and for the road to equal representation until they have reached their goal.

Featured Image by Richard Fisher on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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