Women a rare sight in China’s corridors of power

Published on WebIndia, by (Reuters) 10FN37.xml, Oct 10 2007.

There are women to be found in China’s halls of power, but most of them are serving tea

BEIJING – Nearly 60 years after Mao Zedong’s Communists came to power championing women as an economic force, giving them rights to hold land and seek divorce, few have risen through the political ranks to reach the top.

Now, as a five-yearly Party Congress prepares to meet next week and speculation heats up as to who will be promoted to the Party’s highest levels, the lack of women among those in contention is more obvious than ever.

‘You can’t simply say it’s about traditional ideas and culture, or simply about China’s political system,’ said Feng Yuan, the gender and women’s rights coordinator at ActionAid, a non-governmental organisation.

‘Because in reality, those traditional concepts and the political system influence and reinforce each other.’ No woman has ever served on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, and there is currently only one on the 24-member Politburo – Vice Premier Wu Yi, known as China’s ‘Iron Lady’ for her toughness in trade talks and crisis management …

… Despite the hurdles, analysts say there are some signs of optimism, and a growing awareness among leaders of the need to include more women in positions of power.

‘I think there is a much stronger core group if the higher leaders allow them to continue to come forward and assume more and more responsible jobs,’ said Gilmartin.

‘It would be seen very negatively if China doesn’t make some more progress at this next Party Congress in terms of the number of women who are in the higher bodies of the Communist Party.’

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