Women assume bigger role in Party

Updated: 2012-11-08 02:57

By He Dan and Zhu Zhe (China Daily)

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China has progressed steadily in improving women's representation at national congresses of the Communist Party of China over the past decade, a trend which experts said will contribute to gender equality and social stability.

Among the 2,270 delegates to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which opens on Thursday, 521 are women, around 23 percent of the total, according to the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee.

At the 17th Party Congress five years ago, 20 percent of the delegates were female, while the figure was 18 percent at the 16th Party Congress in 2002.

The rising proportion of female delegates reflects the great efforts made by the Party to give women members a bigger say, said Xiao Bailing, president of Hunan Women's Federation.

Xiao said 17 female delegates from the province in Central China arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for the 18th Party Congress, together with Hunan's 46 male delegates.

The 17 female delegates represent more than 734,000 female Party members in Hunan, Xiao said. Women currently account for 19.6 percent of the province's Party members, up 2 percentage points compared with 2007.

And more than half of these female delegates are from the grassroots, including a factory worker, a rural teacher and a tour guide, she said.

"The Party has attached greater importance to involving more women in the development of grassroots Party organizations in recent years," she said.

"In terms of promotion, both the Party and the government have given priority to appointing female officials if the candidates have similar qualifications."

Sun Xiaomei, a professor specializing in women's studies at China Women's University in Beijing, described the growing number of female delegates as a "delightful phenomenon".

"The number and proportion of female delegates have increased steadily during the past four congresses," said Sun.

"More female delegates will give a greater voice to Chinese women and they can call for improved welfare and rights for women," she said.

"Compared with men, women are more tolerant and compassionate," said Yang Yayun, director of the Computer and Network Center at Beijing Administrative College.

"So when more women come on to the political stage, they can better play the role of ‘glue' that holds the society together and reduce conflicts."

Hou Jingjing, an associate professor at Nanjing Normal University in East China's Jiangsu province, has been a delegate to both the 17th and 18th Party congresses.

Hou, whose legs are paralyzed, said she pays special attention to the rights and interests of disabled people, particularly women and children.

"I was so glad that my suggestion to attach more importance to special education was included in the final document passed at the 17th Party Congress," she said.

She said she felt that the opinions of delegates were "really taken seriously", adding that she plans to make more suggestions on this topic at the 18th Party Congress.

Despite the progress, Sun from China Women's University said that women's representation in high-level Party and government positions is still low.

"We don't have many female members of the Central Committee of the CPC or in ministerial positions," she said.

"I think there's still a long way to go to achieve women's equal participation in politics, but we are moving in the right direction."

Of the 204 members of the 17th CPC Central Committee, only 13 are women, accounting for 6 percent, according to official figures. Only five members of the 16th CPC Central Committee were women.

Contact the writers at hedan@chinadaily.com.cn and