To what extent has China’s modernization improved the position of women in Chinese society today?

To what extent has China’s modernization improved the position of women in Chinese society today?

After 3 decades of communism followed by 3 decades of liberalism, Chinese society remains, in many ways very attached to its social and family traditions. In recent years, however, modernization has indeed brought about many changes in the role of the position of women. As compared to the olden days where women were not regarded as important as men, today, the role of women has quite radically changed in China due to modernization.


  • Increased educational opportunities

Firstly, modernization has helped Chinese women reach an elevated position in society as it has provided them with increased educational opportunities. The rapidly increasing number of better educated professionally trained and self-employed women is testimony to their elevated status in modern China economy today. A survey of rural areas carried out in the 1930s found out that only 2% of the female population aged 7 and above had ever attended school and that only 1% could read a common Chinese letter, whereas 45% of males attended school and 30% were able to identity commonly used letters. This was mainly so given the preference of males as compared to females due to Confucius beliefs. In 2004, the enrollment of boys and girls was 98.97 percent and 98.93 percent, respectively. Furthermore, from 1995 to 2004, 13.4 million illiterate Chinese women had been educated. Thus, women in China enjoy increased opportunities for higher education as a result of modernization, which has in turn significantly raised their status in society.


  • Increased employment opportunities

As a result of modernization, more employment opportunities have been created for women in China today. Currently, there are now women in all trades and professions, with women making up 49% of China’s population and 46% of its labour force, a higher proportion than in many western countries. Today, women can be seen working side by side with men on a seemingly equal footing. Furthermore, more Chinese women have been moving away from the countryside and piling into the electronics factories in the booming coastal belts, earning more than their parents have ever dreamt of. As of 2011, China already has a higher proportion of women in the top layers of management as compared to many western countries. Hence, as a result of modernization and the increased employment opportunities that women have today, the position of women in today’s society can be argued to have improved to a large extend.




  • Increased freedom in marriage

Modernization has benefited women in China by facilitating the liberalization of the institution of marriage. In the past, many couples were forced to stay in their “dead marriages” just to keep their privacy and avoid social stigma. In addition, marriages were often arranged, with a woman’s responsibility to remain married, no matter how undesirable the match. With modernization, in 2003, a revised marriage law simplified procedures allowing people to get divorced more easily. Over the years, Chinese divorce rates has been increasing and as of 2015, China has seen the largest divorce rate of 3.8million in many years. Thus, modernization has indeed brought betterment to women’s lives as they are no longer required to be trapped in unhappy marriages and can freely divorce if necessary, without the accompanying social stigma.


  • Inability to participate in politics (Glass Ceiling)

While modernization has empowered women in some areas, they are not able to infiltrate the traditionally male-dominated political sector. As much as Chinese women are gradually gaining political rights, they are playing only peripheral roles, whereas men continue to dominate the top levels of leadership in the Chinese government. The Politburo Standing Committee, the highest body of the CCP, has not had a female member since its establishment. Scholars have found that women’s participation in rural governance remains seriously limited. Sexist attitudes that “women are of lower quality” are still prevalent in the Chinese countryside. Furthermore, representation of women in local government bodies remains low, and women villagers’ political aspirations and sense of empowerment are similarly limited whereby those who make their way into government bodies or villager’s committees are often assigned marginal portfolios. Out of the 25 members of the 18th Politburo Party of 2012, only 2 are females. Thus, the lack of opportunity and participate and excel in all sectors of society, especially in the political sector, despite the increased freedom that they enjoy due to modernization shows that their position has not really improved over the years.


  • Gender Discrimination (Glass Ceiling)

Despite the betterment of women’s lives in some areas, gender discrimination still persists in China today given the deep underlying cultural beliefs about gender roles remain powerful in China. These beliefs, voiced today by most frequently in the countryside, influence the pace of change for women. One belief is that women are inferior to men. The other stems from traditional Confucian notions of filial piety whereby it centers the preference for male babies over female and the associated filial duties of males in the family life. In a 2010 survey conducted by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACFW) and the National Bureau of  Statistics of China revealed that more than 72% of women were not hired or promoted due to gender discrimination and over 75% believed they were “being dismissed” due to marriage or childbirth. Furthermore in 2015, despite a women named Ma Hu applying for a position in China Post to be a courier, she was only called back for an interview for a clerical position instead, with China Post has stating that women are physically unsuitable for the job, having explained that some amount of heavy lifting is required. Thus showing that gender discrimination still persists in China despite modernization

In conclusion, although Chinese women have clearly gained in autonomy since the 1950s, their equality with men is still far from secure, given that they still suffer from growing insecurity in the field of employment, coupled with the growing inequalities between men and women’s salaries. Thus, on a whole, the status of Chinese women often remains inferior to that of men, particularly in public life, and roles within the family and society remain firmly gendered.


How far does modernization shape Chinese Society today?

How far does modernization shape Chinese Society today?

In recent years, many countries throughout the world have taken modernization as a goal and are working unceasingly to raise their level. The founding of the New China in 1949 opened wide the opportunity for China to realize Socialist modernization. In the last 40 years by constant effort the Chinese people have made great progress in founding an independent industrial and national economic system with its multiple dimensions. As such, it is not a surprise that with the introduction of modernization, the family structure and lifestyle of the Chinese society have altered tremendously.


  • Role of Women

Modernization has caused a large change in terms of people’s mindsets and thus gradually changing the role of women in modern China. From the Han Dynasty until the modern period, scholars and rulers developed a male dominated patriarchal society in China. Confucianism was at the root of the development of the patriarchal society in China and emphasized the distinctions between the sexes and the roles they have within the society. However, when modernization in China starts after the opening of the economy in 1979, the system of free-market capitalism has reversed many of the rights and freedoms that Chinese women fought for during the Mao era. In 1992, the role of women had gone further for greater change when a law on Protection of Women’s Rights was set to protect the rights of women at home and in the family. As such, modernization has changed women’s rights and altered the traditional gender hierarchy in China, in aspects of domestic life such as marriage, as well as in the workplace. Hence, these changes altered the quality of life and the availability of opportunities to women at different junctures throughout the modern globalization process.


  • Erosion of Filial Piety

Modernization has resulted in the erosion of filial piety. In terms of the Chinese tradition of being filial to one’s parents, it is widely believed that filial piety, as expressed by instrumental support and for effective bonding with parents, have decreased in western countries, and that if societal and economic modernization has been the cause, the same trend will soon be evident in China. It can be argued that in China the availability of better paid employment in cities led to many to work and live far away from their parents, thereby reducing opportunities to practice filial piety. One supposed influence on its level of modernization, as manifested in urbanization and new types of housing that disperse extended families across scattered small households — a process that some adduce as a primary mechanism eroding filial piety. Therefore, with the changing structure of modern housing, modernization can bring about a change in family relations and thus eroding the tradition of filial piety in Chinese society.


  • Preservation of Chinese Traditions

Modernization does not always equate to the destruction of the Chinese traditions as it can also encourage people to preserve historical sites while promoting tourism. Many Chinese historical sites cannot be preserved without maintenance and adaptation. Adaptation is transforming the old into a practical modern solution. For instance in the old city of the Li Jiang tourism district, many of the houses were changed into shops, restaurants and hostels, allowing visitors from all over the world to learn China’s heritage. Although some argued that the entire zone has become commercialized and consequently lost its uniqueness, but on the contrary, the keen search for heritage by tourists has forced the houses to maintain their historical significance, while income generated from tourism kept this maintenance sustainable. This form of heritage renovation is currently taking place all over China, but much of it would have been impossible without destroying some aspects of the old. As such, without the benefits of gaining profits from tourism, many of the historical sites may not have been protected as they are today. Hence, in this case, modernization has created an incentive for the Chinese to preserve these sites and thus preserving the Chinese traditions.


  • Influence of the Internet

However, with modernization, the use of internet has proliferated and as such, made the erosion of Chines tradition an unavoidable result of modernization. In the late 20th Century, the internet was virtually unknown in China, however, in the past 10 years the use of internet and the influence of US companies such as Google and Yahoo has surged in China. Thus, bringing searchable information including western cultures, pop music cultures and foreign concepts and influences, into Chinese culture. As a result, the Chinese especially the younger generation, have become more westernized in their taste and preferences. Therefore, with modernization, the rise of the internet has resulted in the Chinese tradition to erode to some extent.

Thus, modernization has caused detrimental effects on the Chinese education and health care system, proving to be disadvantageous, given that a large majority cannot afford these basic needs.