More women deputies needed, says leading NPC adviser


CHINA:WOMEN NEED greater representation at China’s annual parliament, a leading member of the advisory panel to the National People’s Congress has said, as the number of women deputies has stagnated for decades.

Zhang Liming, an official at the All China Women’s Federation, told the Xinhua news agency that the proportion of female NPC deputies has remained at about 21 per cent over the past three decades.

No women sit on the all-powerful nine-man Politburo standing committee. However, there is speculation that Liu Yandong, one of the few women in the upper echelons of power and a leader in the state council, or cabinet, could get the nod later this year to become the first woman on the committee later this year.

The figure is comparatively low in international terms, short of the European Union average of about a quarter. However, it is considerably higher than Ireland, where 15 per cent of the members of the Dáil are women.

Ms Zhang is a member of the influential advisory body, the Chinese people’s political consultative conference.

While Ms Zhang did not go further back for comparisons, it is unlikely the rate was much higher in the period before reform began 30 years ago, stretching back to 1949.

Few people buy into Chairman Mao Zedong’s adage that “women hold up half the sky”, which was aimed at getting more women to work in the disastrous agricultural reform experiment called the Great Leap Forward in which millions starved to death.

Statistics from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an international organisation of legislatures, showed that Chinese women’s political representation ranked 55th in the world at the end of 2010, down from 12th in 1994.

Images of women in China are unreconstructed.

The Xinhua news agency ran a story about brides in high heels racing in Changsha, while the China Daily had a similar spread from Shenzhen where 38 women took part in a race, wearing shoes with heels more than five centimetres high.

The agency also carried a photographic spread about “Attractive females at NPC” and one about “Pretty policewomen in Xicheng”, not to be confused with one about the “most beautiful policewomen from around the world”, published a couple of weeks ago.

Li Zhiyong, vice-head of the Communist Party’s organisation department told a conference panel discussion that he would actively encourage central authorities to increase the ratio of women in legislatures and political advisory bodies. “It’s true there is a low ratio of women in politics,” he said.