During the COVID-19 pandemic in China, the virus overwhelmed the government in Wuhan. The courageous fight against the deadly virus has often been put forward by women as the virus has wreaked havoc on the city and all of China. More than 40,000 medical professionals fought valiantly against the virus in Wuhan, and two-thirds of them were women. As female healthcare workers and countless low-level female government officials battled the virus, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) saw it as a great publicity opportunity and used its selfless sacrifice to achieve its selfish goals of strengthening their twisted narratives and to win the sympathy of the international community.
The spotlight on women in China during the COVID-19 pandemic represents an anomaly to the administration’s usual treatment of women. Although the CCP led by President Xi Jinping dreams of China becoming a world power, the country still has outdated social expectations and inadequate support for women in the workplace. Such unethical CCP ideology has relegated them to traditional gender roles and continues to stifle the careers of Chinese women.
A state-sponsored survey conducted by the All-China Women’s Federation found that women make up only 37.5 percent of the CCP’s neighborhood and village committees. These committees are responsible for enforcing the Party’s mandates and maintaining social order at the grassroots level. The alarming level of female participation becomes even more evident as one begins to move up the ranks of the government hierarchy. Women represent less than 9% of the Party’s workforce as secretaries and heads of local administration at the provincial, municipal and departmental levels.
The CPC leadership at county level includes only 9.33% representation of women, while at city and provincial level they represent 5.29% and 3.23% respectively. According to a gender study called “Critical Mass Theory,” any governing body or committee must be made up of 30% women in order for them to have a say in policymaking. With the number of women in leadership positions so low, it is no surprise that the CCP has failed to develop meaningful policies that would improve the options, opportunities, or lives of working women.
Jude Howell, a political scientist at the London School of Economics and Political Science rightly said that with women making up less than 9% of Chinese leadership, it is no surprise that Chinese policies do nothing to elevate and for the betterment of women.
In recent years, China has passed and enacted several laws that theoretically guarantee a place for women in leadership roles. However, practically women in China seldom advance to leadership positions in the Chinese CCP government. On top of that, it is extremely rare for women to exceed the rank of MP. Only two women in China hold the post of provincial governors in 31 provinces.
In November last year, Shen Yiqin was promoted to the post of Party Secretary of Guizhou Province, becoming the only female provincial Party secretary in China. Yunyun Zhou, senior lecturer at the University of Oslo, claimed that while the quota set for women in Chinese legislatures has enabled women to advance in leadership roles in China to some extent, it simultaneously guarantees that they do not exceed the rank of Deputies.
Throughout the history of the CCP, only six women entered the Politburo, half of those who did were the wives of some senior leaders. In addition, only 10 women currently sit on the 19th Central Committee, the body of 376 of the country’s top Party members.
One of the main reasons why women have not been able to advance in Chinese government and Chinese society is the predominance of traditional expectations. The result is innumerable institutional, cultural and political barriers that women must overcome to advance their careers.
A 2019 report from China’s National Bureau of Statistics found that women in China spend twice as much time as men doing unpaid housework. This additional burden that women face at home prevents them from reaching their full potential in the office.
Since coming to power, President Xi Jinping has tried to strengthen traditional gender norms and divisions of labor.
Xi and other CCP members have publicly stated that women should stay indoors and take care of the home and their spouses. Chinese state media have also tried to help the Party narrative by publishing articles that claim that the presence of women in the home is necessary for the healthy growth of children and the stability of the family.
The Chinese government’s propaganda aimed at strengthening family virtues and its new two-child policy has forced many women to abandon their careers and accept traditional roles in the family. Zhou, of the University of Oslo, said many women choose to stay in lower or middle-level civil servant positions to avoid devoting their entire lives to work, in addition to the mandatory burden of childcare. .
Another reason why female representation in the Chinese government has remained low over the years is that the CCP views female civil servants as decorative pieces, and women are often given roles such as work dealing with the internal affairs of the government. government and Party. However, male employees are regularly given more serious tasks such as those related to economic development, urban construction and public safety. These tasks are those that frequently lead to promotions. In addition, women are regularly assigned to tasks in the fields of social protection, health or education, which offer fewer possibilities for promotion.
Chinese media frequently refer to female civil servants as “pretty female executives.” Such vocabulary, authorized and rooted in the CCP workplace, emphasizes discrimination of the workforce on the basis of gender, appearance and sexuality. This characteristic reinforces the belief that women are not seen as equal colleagues.
The CCP continues to be dominated by a small group of individuals who are all men. For the Chinese government, the participation of women in leadership roles of the government and the Party simply serves as a means for the CCP to seek legitimacy before the international community. The CCP is not really motivated to see women step into leadership roles in government. This is why, despite the adoption of several laws and the establishment of quotas, the participation of women at the provincial and municipal level remains abysmal.
Although the contribution and sacrifice of female health workers is exploited by Xi Jinping’s leaders to portray a goodie-goodie face of China on the global canvas, China is still hesitant to give women their rightful place in the world. society and the workplace. It also reminds us of the famous Chinese story of Mulan, who had to go through a lot to be recognized by the Chinese Emperor as the hero of China. Only the Mighty God knows how much today’s Mulans in China will have to go through to get the recognition they deserve from Xi Jinping’s authoritarian regime.
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