Angle: ‘retreat’ of women’s status in 10 years of Xi administration, no expectations for party convention | Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Most Chinese women hope to promote gender equality at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, where Xi Jinping is likely to return to power for a third term.

Few Chinese women are hoping to promote gender equality at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on October 18. Pictured, aides prepare tea for attendees before the opening ceremony of the party convention. FILE PHOTO: The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

In the decade since Mr. Since Xi took over as party general secretary, the number of women in political and senior government positions has fallen and the gender gap in the working class has widened, say scholars and activists who followed. Feminist voices have been stifled in recent years, they say, with governments emphasizing women’s “traditional roles” as mothers and carers. Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, is known for saying, “Women hold up half the sky.” Gender equality is also included in the constitution.

However, gaining the support of women has become important in the struggle for power in Chinese politics, and as a result, compared to 10 to 15 years ago, when many women participated, power has become much greater concentrated under the Xi administration, said Chen Li, a China politics expert at the Brookings Institution.

“Women are now more likely to hold supportive or symbolic positions,” she said.

Members of the Central Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, are elected at the party congress, which is held once every five years.

Of the 25 candidates for the Central Politburo, only one female candidate is provincial head Xin Maqin (62). Sun Chunlan, 72, who is currently the only female bureaucrat and has championed the “no coronavirus” policy, is expected to retire.

In the Central Committee, which ranks next in the party’s hierarchy, 30 of the 371 members, including members and candidates, are women, accounting for 8 percent of the total. This percentage is down from 10% in 2007. There are only two women at the top of China’s 31 provincial governments.

The lack of senior female politicians runs counter to the Communist Party’s efforts to increase female membership, which rose from 24% in 2012 to 29% in 2021.

But there are areas in China where women can make valuable progress. The most distinguished business world.

The proportion of female directors in Chinese companies rose to 13.8% last year, up from 8.5% in 2016, according to a report by stock index provider MSCI. About 55 percent of Chinese tech startups are founded by women, according to the government.

However, the lack of women in government is a real obstacle for women, experts say.

“This has implications for women’s rights, fertility rates, gender pay gaps, domestic violence and other real-world problems,” said Valerie Tan, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Germany.

The All China Women’s Federation, the Chinese government agency responsible for women’s rights, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

China has made “great strides in the women’s movement” over the past decade, according to a statement published on the federation’s website on September 27. Women in the country enjoy equal rights.

China ranked 102 out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s latest rankings for gender equality, while many countries have made progress in closing gender gaps in the workplace, education, health and politics. It has fallen from 69th place in 2012, when Xi took office as president.

“The environment is definitely getting worse. It wasn’t better before, it’s always worse, but now it’s easier to exploit,” said Grace Wang, 28.

Ms. Wang said she was passed over for promotions in her previous job because she was a woman, and that she faced similar problems in her current job.

“My current approach to my career is to try to make enough money to survive,” he said.

In December, the Chinese government announced plans to overhaul relevant laws to protect women from sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace. Tens of thousands of people submitted amendments against it, showing a step forward.

Nevertheless, the government is forced to deal with a demographic crisis, including one of the lowest birth rates in the world, a growing number of people reluctant to have children, and a rapidly aging society. Experts and activists are concerned about increasing rhetoric

For example, in a speech in July 2021, Mr Xi said that women should be “good wives and wise mothers” while touching on the importance of gender equality. In order to do that, he said, we must undertake the “modern mission of thinking about our own future and destiny in close connection with the future and destiny of our homeland.”

Experts also point to specific cases where women’s rights have been suppressed.

China’s National Health Commission announced in August that it would curb abortions unless medically necessary. Condemnation poured in on social media. Similarly, the enactment of a new law imposing a 30-day “cooling-off system” on divorces has also sparked outrage among victims of domestic violence.

The feminist movement, which gained sympathy in China as the #MeToo movement expanded in 2018, faced a government crackdown, which included forced event cancellations, censorship of online discussions, and arrests of activists.

Lu Ping, now an activist in New York and founder of the now defunct Chinese online media Feminist Voice, said:

“The current feminist movement is very weak and has no freedom to develop. Many social movements have been silenced and women have no free will.”

(Reporting by Farah Master and Xiaoyu Yin)

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