Women's Political Participation in China

  • December 8, 2011
  • By Xiajuan Guo and Yongnian Zheng
  • Editor: Sun Xi
  • Change Text Size: A  A  A

The Rise of Affirmative Action

Equal opportunity between men and women has been a principal policy of the party and government ever since the founding of the People's Republic of China. However, most of the provisions under this policy have been too general and have had no substantial impact on women's rights. China's hosting of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 was a key turning point. This event served as a catalyst in boosting women's political involvement, resulting in various gender-oriented regulations. In the closing address of the 1995 world women conference, then-President Jiang Zeming once again emphasized that "the equality between men and women is the fundamental policy of China." Following the 1995 conference, the Chinese government has been systematically supporting women's political rights.

As a primary provision in the 1954 Constitution, gender equality is protected constitutionally in China. The Constitution states that "all citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right to vote and stand for election." Another article states that "women in the People's Republic of China have equal rights with men in all spheres of life including the political, economic, cultural, social and family spheres. Women's rights are also stated in all subsequent constitutions.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, women's rights were realized and protected by China's cadre management system under which all Party cadres and government officials were appointed by the party-state. This system took gender factors into consideration when appointments were decided, leading to a great increase in the proportion of female cadres. The female proportion reached its peak in the 1970s, representing a milestone in the history of women's political inclusion in China.

The 1982 Constitution substantially advanced women's political rights. Article 48 of the 1982 Constitution states that "the state……trains and selects women cadres." In September 1982, the 12th Party Congress, which was held in Beijing, revised the Party Constitution. Article 34 of the Party Constitution states that "the Party selects women cadres according to the criteria of integrity and ability……The Party should pay great attention to cultivating and selecting women cadres as well as minority cadres." Both the State Constitution and Party Constitution facilitated the rise of affirmative action, in terms of promoting women's political participation and increasing the proportion of females in different power structures. In other words, the new emphasis on women's rights made it mandatory to realize women's inclusion.

Since 1982, a number of party documents and state policies have focused on female cadres' training and selection. Various state personnel reforms have also emphasized women's capacity building and their sharing of power in different government departments and organizations, providing women with special protection and benefits. The party has also made efforts to recruit women to meet the target of training and selecting women cadres.

In 1992, the first law on women's rights, The PRC Law on the Protection of Women's Rights, was enacted. It was amended in 2005. The law reiterated that "the state should actively train and select female cadres. The state organs, civil organizations, enterprises and institutions must insist on the principle of gender equality in the appointment of cadres and they are to foster and promote female cadres as leadership members. The state pays attention to training and selecting minority women cadres as well. These provisions have generated a positive impact on women's political participation.

According to these policy initiatives, the government should play a leading role in policy implementation and bear full responsibility for it. In 1995, China's first gender equality programme -Program of China Women's Development (1995-2000)--was enacted. A second version (2001-2010) of the programme was developed in 2000, indicating that women's political participation has become a part of governmental actions. Various concrete objectives established in the program have advanced the goals of women's political participation. 

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  • Women's Political Participation in China2011-12-08   Editor: Sun Xi

    The Rise of Affirmative Action

    Equal opportunity between men and women has been a principal policy of the party and government ever since the founding of the People's Republic of China. However, most of the provisions under this policy have been too general and have had no substantial impact on women's rights. China's hosting of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 was a key turning point. This event served as a catalyst in boosting women's political involvement, resulting in various gender-oriented regulations. In the closing address of the 1995 world women conference, then-President Jiang Zeming once again emphasized that "the equality between men and women is the fundamental policy of China." Following the 1995 conference, the Chinese government has been systematically supporting women's political rights.

    As a primary provision in the 1954 Constitution, gender equality is protected constitutionally in China. The Constitution states that "all citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right to vote and stand for election." Another article states that "women in the People's Republic of China have equal rights with men in all spheres of life including the political, economic, cultural, social and family spheres. Women's rights are also stated in all subsequent constitutions.

    Between the 1950s and 1970s, women's rights were realized and protected by China's cadre management system under which all Party cadres and government officials were appointed by the party-state. This system took gender factors into consideration when appointments were decided, leading to a great increase in the proportion of female cadres. The female proportion reached its peak in the 1970s, representing a milestone in the history of women's political inclusion in China.

    The 1982 Constitution substantially advanced women's political rights. Article 48 of the 1982 Constitution states that "the state……trains and selects women cadres." In September 1982, the 12th Party Congress, which was held in Beijing, revised the Party Constitution. Article 34 of the Party Constitution states that "the Party selects women cadres according to the criteria of integrity and ability……The Party should pay great attention to cultivating and selecting women cadres as well as minority cadres." Both the State Constitution and Party Constitution facilitated the rise of affirmative action, in terms of promoting women's political participation and increasing the proportion of females in different power structures. In other words, the new emphasis on women's rights made it mandatory to realize women's inclusion.

    Since 1982, a number of party documents and state policies have focused on female cadres' training and selection. Various state personnel reforms have also emphasized women's capacity building and their sharing of power in different government departments and organizations, providing women with special protection and benefits. The party has also made efforts to recruit women to meet the target of training and selecting women cadres.

    In 1992, the first law on women's rights, The PRC Law on the Protection of Women's Rights, was enacted. It was amended in 2005. The law reiterated that "the state should actively train and select female cadres. The state organs, civil organizations, enterprises and institutions must insist on the principle of gender equality in the appointment of cadres and they are to foster and promote female cadres as leadership members. The state pays attention to training and selecting minority women cadres as well. These provisions have generated a positive impact on women's political participation.

    According to these policy initiatives, the government should play a leading role in policy implementation and bear full responsibility for it. In 1995, China's first gender equality programme -Program of China Women's Development (1995-2000)--was enacted. A second version (2001-2010) of the programme was developed in 2000, indicating that women's political participation has become a part of governmental actions. Various concrete objectives established in the program have advanced the goals of women's political participation. 

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