Women’s Participation in Politics

The situation of Chinese women’s participation in politics has improved to a great extent in the past five years, which can be seen in the following statistics.

The number of women deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) has risen. In 1998, the proportion of women deputies to the NPC stood at 21.8 percent, up 0.8 of a percentage point over 1993. This was a breakthrough compared with 21 percent, the percentage during 1978-93.

The government issued the country’s first Outline on Chinese Women’s Development (1995-2000), advancing the clear goal of actively realizing women’s involvement in government at all levels.

Special agencies have been established in charge of choosing and training women officials and of making policies advantageous to women. For example, if an important government agency had no women members, its establishment would not be approved.

Statistics show that each of the leading departments at the central government and 31 provincial, autonomous regional and municipal governments has at least one woman leader. By the end of 1997, the proportion of women officials had increased by 38.7 percent in provincial governments, 31.4 percent in prefectures, 15.6 percent in counties, and 62.8 in towns. Women have been elected to leading posts in all counties and in 50 percent of the towns of 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

Women’s active participation in politics has influenced policy-making and the social environment in a way advantageous to women’s development. Since the Fourth UN World Conference on Women was held in Beijing in 1995, women’s federations, experts and officials have done a lot to raise the consciousness of the importance of women’s active participation in politics.

In view of the low proportion of women heads in villagers’ committees, the grassroot government in rural China, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, at the urging of the All-China Women’s Federation, issued special policy documents in August 1999 to change the situation.

As for the problem that women’s rights and interests have been harmed in the adoption of the household responsibility, the newspaper, Chinese Women’s Daily published a series of 14 reports, covering the problem and calling for government attention. Soon later, the State Council and the Ministry of Agriculture have put the issue on their working agenda and worked out related regulations to well protect women’s right and interests in rural areas.

Still, there are problems needing government and public attention and urgent solution. For example, the uneven proportions of women officials remain in different regions and areas. While in some provinces, 100 percent of the government agencies have women members, the figure is only 46.7 percent in other provinces. In prefectural governments, the highest figure is 88 percent and the lowest is only 10 percent.

Uneven sex ratio in political parties and groups is also clear. The highest proportion of women members in the democratic parties is 25 percent, and the lowest is 15 percent. The proportion of women Communist Party members is 7 percent.

Few women participate in high-level leadership and policy-making. Of more than 600 cities, only six have women mayors. Meanwhile, no women have ever been members of the top state leadership.

There are many countermeasures suggested to solve the existing problems hindering the development of Chinese women. First of all, the number of women deputies to the NPC should be further increased. Statistics show that the proportion of Chinese NPC deputies is lower in comparison with the number of women parliamentary members in many other countries. In this sphere, China ranked 12th in the world in 1994, 16th in 1997, and 20th in 2000.

Next, efforts should be made to improve women’s abilities to participate in policy-making and leadership. Since the Fourth UN World Conference on Women, a network for training women leaders has been formed nationwide. However, no such system has been established yet at the high-level government departments for training women leaders in China. In the Central Party School, the number of women attending courses is only one tenth that of men. This directly influences the choosing of high-level state leaders.

Thirdly, related laws and regulations should be worked out to provide a good atmosphere for women’s development. The peoples’ congresses and governments at various levels should enact related laws clearly stipulating the number of women members to be elected to the National People’s Congress and local governments.

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