China’s Male Leaders Signal to Women That Their Place Is in the Home

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China’s Male Leaders Signal to Women That Their Place Is in the Home​

The Communist Party’s solution to the country’s demographic crisis and a slowing economy is to push women back into traditional roles.


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Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and the state, including Xi Jinping, attending the 13th National Women’s Congress in Beijing last month.Credit...Yao Dawei/Xinhua, via Getty Images

By Alexandra Stevenson

Nov. 2, 2023


At China’s top political gathering for women, it was mostly a man who was seen and heard.

Xi Jinping, the country’s leader, sat center stage at the opening of the National Women’s Congress. A close-up of him at the Congress was splashed on the front page of the Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper the next day. From the head of a large round table, Mr. Xi lectured female delegates at the closing meeting on Monday.
“We should actively foster a new type of marriage and childbearing culture,” he said in a speech, adding that it was the role of party officials to influence young people’s views on “love and marriage, fertility and family.”

The Women’s Congress, held every five years, has long been a forum for the ruling Communist Party to demonstrate its commitment to women. The gesture, while mostly symbolic, has taken on more significance than ever this year, the first time in two decades that there are no women in the party’s executive policymaking body.

What was notable was how officials downplayed gender equality. They focused instead on using the gathering to press Mr. Xi’s goal for Chinese women: get married and have babies. In the past, officials had touched on the role women play at home as well as in the work force. But in this year’s address, Mr. Xi made no mention of women at work.


The party desperately needs women to have more babies. China has been thrust into a demographic crisis as its birthrate has plummeted, causing its population to shrink for the first time since the 1960s. The authorities are scrambling to undo what experts have said is an irreversible trend, trying one initiative after another, such as cash handouts and tax benefits to encourage more births.

Faced with a demographic crisis, a slowing economy and what it views as a stubborn rise of feminism, the party has chosen to push women back into the home, calling on them to rear the young and care for the old. The work, in the words of Mr. Xi, is essential for “China’s path to modernization.”


Image
Xi Jinping stands before rows women who are applauding.

Mr. Xi’s speech indicated that women returning to traditional roles in the home was essential to “China’s path to modernization."Credit...Xie Huanchi/Xinhua, via Getty Images


But to some, his vision sounds more like a worrying regression.
“Women in China have been alarmed by the trend and have been fighting back over the years,” said Yaqiu Wang, the research director for Hong Kong, China and Taiwan at Freedom House, a nonprofit based in Washington. “Many women in China are empowered and united in their fight against the twin repressions in China: the authoritarian government and the patriarchal society.”

The party has failed to address many concerns, viewing some issues raised by women as a direct challenge to its leadership. Bursts of discussion over sexual harassment, gender violence and discrimination are silenced on social media. Support for victims is often extinguished. Feminists and outspoken advocates have been jailed, and a #MeToo movement that briefly flourished in 2018 has been pushed underground.


The language used by senior officials at the Women’s Congress in Beijing was another glimpse of how the party sees the role of women. Mr. Xi has pushed a hard-line agenda to advance his vision of a stronger China that includes a revival of what he considers traditional values. At the congress, he encouraged female leaders to “tell good stories about family traditions and guide women to play their unique role in carrying forward the traditional virtues of the Chinese nation.”

In a departure from a two-decade tradition, Mr. Xi’s deputy, Ding Xuexiang, failed to mention in an opening address at the congress a standard phrase: that gender equality is a basic national policy.

And even as Mr. Xi did nod to gender equality, he spent most of his speech elaborating on family, parenting and fertility.


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A man and a woman in wedding attire hold hands in the doorway of a brick chapel as a line of people streams by on a sidewalk.

A couple taking wedding pictures in Shanghai in July. Young adults in China have expressed ambivalence about marriage.Credit...Qilai Shen for The New York Times


This stands in stark contrast to a decade ago, when top officials stressed the importance of both equality and women’s self-realization, said Hanzhang Liu, a political studies professor at Pitzer College who has examined speeches by senior officials at several congresses over the past two decades.

“Women’s work was once about women for themselves, women for women’s sake,” said Ms. Liu, referring to the party’s jargon for gender issues. “Now what they are saying is that women’s rightful place in society — where they can do the most meaningful work — is at home with the family.”


But the Women’s Congress is not where the battle for their rights is being fought. Organized by the All-China Women’s Federation, a group that works to promote party policies and is funded by the party, it tends to represent the political status quo.

As a result, much of the discussion this year was focused on encouraging party leaders to promote traditional family values. The language reveals the calculus that officials have made: that extolling the virtues of China’s past will inspire women to focus on family. This, they hope, will help with demographics.

Sending women back to the home and out of the work force is also convenient at a time when China faces its biggest economic challenge in four decades and the government is under pressure to improve a social welfare system that is severely underdeveloped and unable to support a rapidly aging population.

“Women have always been viewed as an instrument of the state in one way or another,” said Minglu Chen, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney who studies gender and politics in China. “But now we have to think about China’s political economy. It benefits the party to emphasize women returning to the home, where they can care for children and for the elderly.”


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A man in a black puffer jacket and a medical mask looks over laminated listings of people looking to be romantically matched with others.

People perused matrimonial posters at a wedding market in Wuhan, China, in 2021. Parents meet weekly at the market to search for partners for their children.Credit...Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times


The trend of fewer marriages and births has been years in the making, however, and Mr. Xi is goading women into a role they have long rejected. Many young and educated women in China’s biggest cities have relished their financial independence and are wary of marriage because of the pressure on them to have children and give it all up.

Young adults have expressed ambivalence about marrying and settling down, and they worry about the future as the economy slumps and unemployment soars. China is also among the most expensive countries in the world to raise a child.

For all of Mr. Xi’s calls on women to take up the cause of having babies, the party’s efforts are unlikely to bolster the birthrate enough to reverse the country’s population decline. That is, unless it is willing to resort to more punitive measures to disadvantage or marginalize women who choose not to have children.

While unlikely, it is something that Fubing Su, a political science professor at Vassar College, said was not completely out of the question. During the “one-child” policy, the party resorted to fines, forced abortions and sterilizations in an attempt to slow population growth for decades until it ended the restrictions in 2015.
“If the party could sacrifice women’s body and birth rights for its one-child policy,” said Mr. Su, “they could impose their will on women again.”

Zixu Wang contributed research.
 

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“Women’s work was once about women for themselves, women for women’s sake,” said Ms. Liu, referring to the party’s jargon for gender issues. “Now what they are saying is that women’s rightful place in society — where they can do the most meaningful work — is at home with the family.”

or all of Mr. Xi’s calls on women to take up the cause of having babies, the party’s efforts are unlikely to bolster the birthrate enough to reverse the country’s population decline. That is, unless it is willing to resort to more punitive measures to disadvantage or marginalize women who choose not to have children

PAAGset in the cut like.... :wow:



air-china-airplane.gif
 

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What was notable was how officials downplayed gender equality. They focused instead on using the gathering to press Mr. Xi’s goal for Chinese women: get married and have babies. In the past, officials had touched on the role women play at home as well as in the work force. But in this year’s address, Mr. Xi made no mention of women at work.


The party desperately needs women to have more babies. China has been thrust into a demographic crisis as its birthrate has plummeted, causing its population to shrink for the first time since the 1960s. The authorities are scrambling to undo what experts have said is an irreversible trend, trying one initiative after another, such as cash handouts and tax benefits to encourage more births.

This is the future of western countries as well - as the population continues to age due to low birth rates. Western countries have been using immigration as a substitute but as clash of civilisation rises due to the changes in racial/religious demographics & rise in ultra-nationalism - they will click the reset button.

Conservatism builds empires/civilisations while liberalism destroys them.
 

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Conservatism builds empires/civilisations while liberalism destroys them.

On the surface, that sounds like a bad thing. But if you're talking about the human race, then liberalism isn't all that bad on that front.
 

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This is the future of western countries as well - as the population continues to age due to low birth rates. Western countries have been using immigration as a substitute but as clash of civilisation rises due to the changes in racial/religious demographics & rise in ultra-nationalism - they will click the reset button.

Conservatism builds empires/civilisations while liberalism destroys them.

What empires has conservatism built?
 

CopiousX

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Conservatism builds empires/civilisations while liberalism destroys them.
dunno about this.

Rome, persia, mughals, aztecs , etc were incredibly liberal for literally hundreds of years and they did it in complete peace and prosperity. Their demises occured hundreds of years after their pivot to liberalism due to external factors.


Also, in china's direct case ; their nation only turned around in the 1980s due to them abandoning 3 decades of useless conservatisim.
 

Bonk

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On the surface, that sounds like a bad thing. But if you're talking about the human race, then liberalism isn't all that bad on that front.

Not saying everything about liberal is bad. However, when it becomes extreme - it creates a degenerate society that destroys the natural order. And that’s basically what we’re seeing in today’s world.

The same is applicable to conservatism when it’s extreme & its penchant to create stunted insular societies.

But it has to be in moderation whilst tilting more towards conservatism.
 

BaggerofTea

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dunno about this.

Rome, persia, mughals, aztecs , etc were incredibly liberal for literally hundreds of years and they did it in complete peace and prosperity. Their demises occured hundreds of years after liberalism due to external factors.


Also, in china's direct case ; their nation only turned around in the 1980s due to them abandoning 3 decades of useless conservatisim.


Even conservatives know that conservatism is an ideology based on oppression and repression.

That's the empires building he is referring to
 

Bonk

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dunno about this.

Rome, persia, mughals, aztecs , etc were incredibly liberal for literally hundreds of years and they did it in complete peace and prosperity. Their demises occured hundreds of years after their pivot to liberalism due to external factors.


Also, in china's direct case ; their nation only turned around in the 1980s due to them abandoning 3 decades of useless conservatisim.

None of those civilisations/empires were built on liberalism.

Conversely, they started declining until they were destroyed when they became too liberal.

You can add African empires to the list - liberalism destroyed all of them.
 
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