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China’s Politburo Has No Women, a Break With Custom


No one expected that a woman will join Xi Jinping’s inner circle this week when he announces his new leadership team.

But many China watchers were surprised that not a single woman had been promoted to the Politburo, the party’s second most powerful grouping and its executive policy-making body, break with a two-decade tradition.

“It definitely sends a message that the Chinese Communist Party is not interested in empowering status,” said Minglu Chen, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney who studies gender and politics in China. women’s politics.

“The Chinese Communist Party is really still a patriarchal institution,” Ms. Chen said.

In his speech At the opening of the Communist Party congress last Sunday, Mr. Xi pledged to “adhere to the state’s basic policy on gender equality”. When it comes to promoting women to positions of power, however, the party has a poor track record.

A woman has never been on its highest decision-making body, the Standing Committee. In the party’s seven-decade history, eight women have made their mark, sitting on the larger Politburo.

One of those women, Sun Chunlan, was already qualified to be elected to the Standing Committee, but she will step down from the Politburo this week, having passed the usual retirement age.

Another woman, Shen Yiqin, was widely expected to be promoted to the Politburo to replace Ms. Sun, which now has 24 members. Ms. Shen was promoted to the 205-member Central Committee, along with 11 other women.

While there has never been a clear stipulation that there must be a woman in the Politburo, for two decades it has always had at least one female representative. The last time a woman was not promoted to the Politburo was during the 15th Communist Party Congress in 1997.

Ms. Shen could have created a powerful voice there, had she been promoted. She is the only woman to hold the post of provincial party secretary and one of only four Chinese women to have held that role. She is also a member of the Bai minority, the type of informal degree that tends to put female contestants on a fast track.

Shen is not often covered by Chinese state media, but in a rare appearance in 2020, she showed modesty when accepting a promotion to the post of party chief of Guizhou province. “I solemnly promise that I will treat comrades honestly and will never act like a patriarch calling for all the shots,” Ms. Shen said. quote as said in the local state media at the time.

There are other strong female candidates for a seat in the Politburo: Yu Hongqiu, the only woman among eight delegates to the Communist Party’s anti-corruption body, and Shen Yueyue, president of the Federation Chinese Women. Only Ms. Shen was promoted to the Central Committee this weekend.

With less representation of women in government, some women’s issues can continue to be seen as direct challenges to party leadership‌. For example, a discussion about feminism and support for victims of sexual assault exploded suddenly. quickly extinguished in the past few years

In the US and Europe‌, #Metoo’s statements have forced politicians to leave office, but in China, they are censored. When tennis star Peng Shuai accused a top Chinese official of sexual assault, she censored silent and disappear For many weeks.

Zhang Gaoli, the now-retired official she alleges, has not been cast aside by the party. He was given a prominent seat at the opening of the 20th party congress in the front row.

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