Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chinese women push for a place in space

By Jaime A. FlorCruz, CNN

June 16, 2012 -- Updated 0622 GMT (1422 HKT)
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang, center in a 2010 photo, will be China's first female 'taikonaut.'
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang, center in a 2010 photo, will be China's first female 'taikonaut.'

  • Launch comes 49 years to the day after Russia sent Tereshkova into space
  • China's first woman in space comes same week woman wins China's first major golf title
  • Marketing experts are tapping into potential goldmine of female Chinese consumers
Editor's note: "Jaime's China" is a weekly column about Chinese society and politics. Jaime FlorCruz has lived and worked in China since 1971. He studied Chinese history at Peking University (1977-81) and was TIME Magazine's Beijing correspondent and bureau chief (1982-2000).
Beijing, China (CNN) -- On Saturday at 6:37 p.m. (6:37 a.m. ET), China is scheduled to launch its first female astronaut into space as part of a three-person crew.
Liu Yang will join Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang as part of a three-person crew aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which, if successful, will conduct a historic docking with China's orbiting space module.
Like Wang Yaping, the other woman considered for the coveted slot, Liu Yang is married, in her early 30s and chosen among China's first batch of women astronauts because of her strong flying record and mental toughness.
The launch of China's first woman taikonaut (which combines the Chinese "taikong," or space, and the Greek "nautes," or sailor) into space would come exactly 49 years to the day that the former Soviet Union put its first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into space.
It's about time.
Chinese women have been on a winning streak in various fields lately.
Feng Shanshan, 22, on Sunday became the first golfer from China to win a major tournament by topping the Wegmans LPGA tournament in New York. The Guangzhou resident, who began playing golf at the age of 10, took home the $375,000 prize.
Chinese women have grand ambitions for their future, are rapidly climbing the corporate ladder and achieving equality in compensation
Pully Chau, chairman and CEO for Draftfcb Greater China
Last year, Li Na became the first Asian-born tennis player to will a Grand Slam singles title by taking the French Open. Before long, she signed several million-dollar endorsement contracts for brands such as Rolex and Haagen-Dazs.
They are following the footsteps of other sports stars, like Guo Jingjing, whose six Olympic medals, including four golds, have made her the most decorated female Olympic diver.
Guo has smartly turned her good looks and diving prowess into fame and fortune. By the time she retired last year, she had collected commercial endorsements for McDonalds and other consumer brands worth millions of dollars.
Marketing experts are tapping into the potential goldmine of female Chinese consumers.
"More than two-thirds (67%) of women in China are employed, compared to 58% in the U.S.," writes Pully Chau, chairman and CEO for Draftfcb Greater China, a marketing and communications company. "With greater economic power, Chinese women will also have greater spending power."
"Chinese women have grand ambitions for their future, are rapidly climbing the corporate ladder and achieving equality in compensation," Chau continued.
Although Chinese women still face pressure to be traditional -- get married, have a child, appear meek and submissive, etc -- breaking the stereotype is no longer taboo. Many have risen from obscurity, pursued educations, started businesses, had divorces and become self-made multi-millionaires.
According to Hurun Report's annual rich list, half of the top 20 richest self-made women are Chinese.
Among them is Wu Yajun, chairwoman and founder of Longfor Properties. She is China's richest woman, with personal net worth of 42 billion yuan ($6.57 billion).
Fortune China's 2012 "40 under 40" list of young entrepreneurs includes two Chinese businesswomen: Chen Chunhong, managing director of Yiyuan Environmental Group, ranks 12th, and Carol Chyau, founder and CEO of Shokay International, ranks 21st.
Meng Xiaosi, vice president of the All-China Women's Federation, said that China has over 29 million female entrepreneurs, or a quarter of the nation's total. Over 41% of them are self-employed and private business owners, she said.
This is a reversal of fortune, considering China's historical context.
For centuries, Confucian thinking had relegated women in China to secondary and subordinate roles.
"At the early age of seven, according to the ancient practice, boys and girls did not occupy the same mat nor eat together," wrote J. Dyer Ball in "Things Chinese," a book first published in 1925. "Woman is made to serve in China, and the bondage is often a long and bitter one: a life of servitude to her parents; a life of submission to her parents-in-law at marriage; and the looking forward to a life of bondage to her husband in the next world, for she belongs to the same husband there, and is not allowed to be properly married to another after his death."
Foot binding, although considered something of a beauty ritual, was perhaps the most shocking practice that condemned women to being powerless homemakers.
After the communist takeover in 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong banned feudal marriage and advocated gender equality.
In 1950, he announced a new marriage law, banning forced marriages, domestic abuse and concubinage. The law also gave women the right to divorce.
"Women hold up half the sky," Mao declared famously.
Women were also given access to an education and military training.
"Times have changed, and today men and women are equal," Mao said in another occasion. "Whatever men comrades can accomplish, women comrades can too."
At the height of the decade-long Cultural Revolution, the Maoist idea of gender equality was taken to the extreme. Men and women then dressed the same, wearing mostly baggy and monochromatic clothing.
Pro-women advocacy failed to entirely subvert China's male-centered society. Boys were still valued for their role in carrying on the family name. When China's one-child policy was introduced in 1978, it created unintended consequences, like forced abortion and gender imbalance.
While women have been powerful players in China's booming economy, they are still grossly underrepresented in politics.
Today only one woman, Liu Yandong, sits as a full member of the ruling Politburo of the Communist Party. Five women in all have served in the powerful policy-making body.
Only four out of the 35 members of the State Council, China's government cabinet, are women.
Although the constitution says that "women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life," domestic violence, forced abortions and sterilizations, infanticides and sex trafficking remain intractable problems for females.
CNN's Jordan Lee contributed to this report.

Showing 32 of 32 comments

  • invertboy
    Echoing a China's famous proverb : " Women can hold up the half sky, Everything is incomplete and imperfect without Chinese females participation"
  • oyje
    Congrats CNN! You once again show your excellence as a political media tool of US government, by throwing shadows on other countries' achievement and exaggerating the drawback. Dear Jaime, you are worthy of a big round of applause, for the achievement in drawing world's attention from China's progress in its space technology to your so-called gender equality issue.
  • proteus666
    "Today only one woman, Liu Yandong, sits as a full member of the ruling Politburo of the Communist Party" 
    Let's think about it for a moment, how many percentage of world leader's are woman? This man make it sound like China is the one with problem(in this area). Consider the government type(democratic > totalitarianism), I like to see a article about to long list of Japan and Korean female leaders, thank you. 
  • dk201109
    The United States, our country more than 8000 billion dollars in debt you owe the money back to us to say that people have the ability to put paying the money, or close your foul mouth!Repay, pay back the money, pay back the money, pay back the money .......
  • SupremeEllen
  • Awareness12
    God Almighty Blesses All :)
  • Chris Sadler
    Which version of god do you mean?? Just want to be clear on that.
  • oneofssn
     BTW, CNN is slow on international news, BBC already reported that the ShenZhou 9 successfully docked with Tankong-1 45 minutes ago.
  • zhongming
    This article has depicted a rosy picture of Chinese women in today's Chinese society, namely, the privileged ones, but it is highly lopsided; it fails to include the other side of the story, which is not so rosy.
    More than any other time in recent history, Chinese women are the sexual toy of Chinese men, especially those men with political power. What Chinese women have to pay to advance with their careers, or even for favorable positions, in just about every profession, is an open secret. In an extremely depraved society, more Chinese women become de facto concubine, and stories such as a CCP official having one hundred or more concubines are not even making news. I haven't seen any reliable stats but I know as a fact that the sheer number of Chinese women working abroad as prostitutes is stunning. For instance, in Malaysia, 40% of foreign...
    show more
  • zhongming
    I do agree that over the past 6 decades, Chinese women have advanced a great deal in area such equal rights, but in the meantime, they are facing other problems, some are very troubling. 
    I cannot believe that CNN doesn't allow sincere discussions from other angles. 
    Who are deleting comments?
  • zhongming
    I posted the same comments several hours ago. It was deleted, along with a few other comments with views from other angles.
    Did I violate any CNN policy?
  • oneofssn
     To superno1, 
    1. Wrong! in a known history, China's only female ruler by both power and name did not happen until 690 AD (Empress Wu). Long before that, Egyptian already had several of the Queen rulers. In Ancient world, Egyptians hold the winner of female social equality. Maybe because they had their first version of birth control? So female can enjoy sex and not bound to endless child rearing?
    2. China might have the world's first female "Prime Mister" under Empress Wu, (Shang Guan Waner) She is the great poet/writer/politician, and was responsible to most of the official documents/writings/Orders from Empress Wu;
    I am Chinese woman who live in US, who is interested in history.
  • weibingyi
    China is one such,once you get used it,it well better.
  • MHUA
    a wonderful example of women's ability to work side by side.
  • BlessedGeek
    Why do they still call it People's Liberation Army?
    They should change its name to Capitalist Emancipation Army. And the name of their country to Capitalist Republic of China.
  • blankbeijing
    how do you know that ? pest
  • NorthVanCan
    The United States of Latin Americanos. 
    Get used to it , them  tacos sure are cheap.
  • FreeDumbie
    Time to join American women who are also lost in space...
  • newark
    She is drinking 1000-dollar French wine with the general! 
    Another propoganda of the commie! 
  • kick270
     i like your BS skill, how do you know is 1000 dollar? how do you know is french? how do you know is wine? how do you know that is the general? how do you know thats propoganda?
  • lst5230
  • Scoota Testtossa
    Men do not even get their rights in China, forget about women. This is just a propaganda launch to create the false image and semblance of being a superpower ala USA or USSR. We could launch monkeys and dogs instead. This all has no real meaning for women's rights or even people's rights in general.
  • jonny jonny
    i cann now say chinawoman
  • blankbeijing
     soar in sky.revitalized  china
  • infinitidoug
    The US better restart the space program, because second world countries are catching up...
  • Falconer375
    Might take a while for the US to "catch up" last I read they had cancelled the next generation of launch vehicle.
  • NBTruth
     Correction, 'third world countries' are catching up.
    .......FREEDOME OF INFORMATION IS FREE,choose what to give freedome too!  free money,fre land,these things have no freedome,are slaves,slavery is illegal...... illumanti domination via illusion.....
  • Guest
    Interesting that this "kudos" story comes just a few days after the "forced " late abortion story.  I'm not sure the trade-off is a good one for China.
  • Awareness12
    Dear Chris :)
    Thank you. I am referring to the Prime Creator, the Prime Source of everything, the Oneness :)
    Love, Oneness, Laughter and The Light of God Almighty :)
  • Jedo Dre
    If women are winning then who is losing?
  • Ocie Belle Peace
    If you're winning the game of life take home the prize of your American dream. It would suck if someone tried to take it because you winning 'made' some sucker who didn't fight as hard ' lose '.

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