For those of us in North America and Europe, China often feels like a land of paradoxes. Communist yet capitalist. Traditional yet modern. Open yet oppressive. But like any other place, China is more than a collection of assumptions and stereotypes. And just like anywhere else in the world, its women are seeking to take their places in China and the world.
When we think of women in China, images of bound feet, Beijing Opera, in which women were initially banned from performing, and the submissive, subservient “China Doll” may spring to mind. None of these are, of course, strictly inaccurate. There are still a handful of women with bound feet in China, Beijing Opera is still incredibly popular and women have been performing it since the late 1800s, and the obedient and dutiful China Doll lives on in movies and pornography.
The real, modern women of China are richer and more complex than these simple stock images. Huang Hung, who writes for China Daily (the English language newspaper in China), profiled five extraordinary Chinese women. These women do not actively seek fame or fortune, but through their actions women in both China and the world are faced with difficult questions and even harder answers: “Are we really half the sky? What rights do we really have? And are we really being treated fairly by the system?”
Wei Sun Christianson is the CEO and managing director of Morgan Stanley China. She is also the woman who convinced the state-owned China Investment Corp. to purchase a $5 billion state in Morgan Stanley, securing a meeting with the CIC heads while most investment bankers were still sitting in the lobby.
Wu Yi was minister of trade in 2003 when the SARS epidemic struck China. She was named Minister of Health as well, and because of her actions, China survived the SARS epidemic with minimal damage. Her strong sense of duty, humbleness, and ability to work with others meant that in a crisis, top officials sent Wu Yi to solve the problem.
Mei Yan’s father built the censorship system in China. As CEO of Viacom China, she takes on the system. Because she understands the system and how to communicate with bureaucrats, Mei Yan has been able to change the perspective of the censors. It is thought that because of her, foreign journalists had a free hand during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Wu Changhua is the Greater China director for The Climate Group. She has convinced both the government and major Chinese corporations that profit margins and environmental protection are not diametrically opposed. The largest mobile company in the world, China Mobile, is a corporate partner of The Climate Group, and China is now a major producer of alternative energy.
No one would have ever heard of Deng Yujiao if she hadn’t defender herself when three men attempted to rape her. After being cornered, she stabbed two of the men with a fruit knife and escaped. When one of the men died, it was discovered she had killed a government official. She was sent to a mental institution, and protests ensued. Ultimately public opinion won out, and a verdict of “excessive self-defense” was announced.
Read more about these women...
- Katie Weidmann
Girl Museum Inc.
Girl Museum Inc.