Starting with the I Ching, The Book of Changes, almost five thousand years ago, the central focus of Chinese philosophy was how to live an ideal life and how best to organize society.
When the Chinese Communist Party gained power in 1949, previous schools of Chinese philosophy, except Legalism, were denounced as backward and purged during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
However, the influence of China’s five-thousand year old culture did not vanish as China’s Central Committee continues to plan and modernize while leading China into the future.
Most Chinese believe that true advancement and growth should only happen slowly, at a steady, measured pace, which means to grow but grow slow like a tree while following a well thought out plan to bring about changes.
Even the United States doesn’t change quickly.
In fact, it took almost ninety years to free the slaves, and women first sought the right to vote in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention.
Then seventy-two years later in 1920, American women finally earned the right to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted by Congress and was ratified by the states becoming a national law.
The last time women had relative freedom in China was in the seventh century during the Tang Dynasty when Emperor Wu Zetian, a woman, ruled the country.
Since 1982, when China ratified its Constitution, women in China have gained more freedom, power and rights than at any time in China’s history including the Tang Dynasty.
Critics in the West might point out that under the Communists, no woman has ruled China, but we could say the same of the United States and many other countries.
Today, Liu Yandong, a senior Party official, serves on China’s Politburo [a group of 24 people that oversees the CCP]. She is from Nantong in Jiangsu Province and graduated from Tsinghua University in 1970 with a degree in chemistry.
In fact, Chinese women today account for 40% of government officials. At least 21.3% of National People’s Congress delegates in 2008 were women (about 636 — the latest available data, according to the All China Women’s Federation).
Another example is Li Bin, acting governor of Anhui Province. In addition, 87.1% of China’s provincial regions have female vice governors. Women are also represented in the leadership of 89.4% of the country’s municipal governments. Source: Global Times
For comparison, in the United States, 79 women (of 435 representatives or 18%) serve in the House and 17 [of 100 or 17%] in the Senate. In addition, six women serve as governors [that’s 12% of the total].
Then, ipu.org’s “Women in national parliaments” ranks China 52 [tied with Italy] of 188 countries. The United States is ranked 71, Thailand 75, South Korea 81, Japan 96 and India 99.
“Chinese women leaders have much in common. They generally all have a good education background, being mainly science majors, and solid experience in government. They are of a caliber equal to that of their male counterparts,” an All-China Women’s Federation expert said.
Why do so many of China’s critics expect China to change faster than the US did?
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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Note: This updated and revised post first appeared November 11, 2010