China’s main Covid fighter is a woman who hit the party’s glass ceiling

Sun Chunlan is the only woman in China’s powerful 25-member Politburo.

Among the resources that President Xi Jinping has deployed to arrest Covid’s death in Hong Kong is a Communist Party pandemic fighter: a 71-year-old woman whose career lights up the glass ceiling of the world’s most populous country.

Sun Chunlan is the only female deputy prime minister in China’s patriarchal roots, the only woman in her powerful 25-member Politburo, and most recently a senior official overseeing the control of her pandemic. Now, they have focused on helping across the Hong Kong border, including the local media, the South China Morning Post.

Unlike Xi’s ridicule for not playing “nice boy” boxes, Sun’s pandemic response has been decisive in the state media. After hospitals in Xi’an allowed patients who were not in Covid to die in this year’s blockade, they ordered doctors on the ground “without any excuse not to keep patients away.” When Covid-19 was founded in Wuhan, the septuagenarian spent nearly 100 days there helping vaccine-free authorities to isolate each case, a key strategy for the unparalleled success of the Beijing virus.


“This is not a hide-and-seek game, it needs to be firmly implemented,” he said at the time in a room mostly made up of male cadres, punching them in strange images from an internal meeting published by local media. In another video, he called a hospital with a cell phone to find the beds. “How much can you take? Three hundred? Very well,” he said, wearing a thick jacket and an N95 mask.

The age of the sun will force him to retire after a change at the end of the year and he will leave the leadership of Zhongnanhai in Beijing. She will leave the post without a clear female heir, and after being expelled from China’s innermost realm of power, the Standing Committee – a seven-member boys’ club – has never accepted a woman.

“The system has been completely unfair to Sun Chunlan,” said Victor Shih, an associate professor of elite Chinese policy at the University of San Diego in California. “He was identified as a promising figure in the 1980s. After serving as provincial and central party leader, he will end his career at the Politburo when many less qualified male colleagues join the Standing Committee.”

The lack of women’s representation in the Chinese government has received more attention after a series of scandals highlighting women’s issues. The National People’s Congress, which held its annual meeting in Beijing this week, is considering updating the country’s gender discrimination law, but is likely to make clear what the punishment for violating women’s rights is.


Unlike Xi, Sun was not born into a family with high-level Communist Party relations. He rose to the party level from a watch factory to China’s eighth richest province, Fujian, and later to the port city of Tianjin. In 2012, one in eight women out of 160 became members of Politburo – including alternates – since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

But his predecessor in Tianjin, Zhang Gaoli – later accused of sexually pressuring tennis star Peng Shuai – was catapulted to the Politburo Standing Committee from the post, but Sun never advanced on the party list. Instead, he was appointed deputy prime minister in 2018 and assigned to seemingly low-profile health and sports portfolios, while male opponents led the climate and trade.

“There has been very little, if any, effort to reform gender stereotypes based on old ideas and to reform the deep political culture that favors men in party promotions,” said Valarie Tan, an analyst at the Mercator Institute in Berlin. Chinese Studies.

As the country faces a demographic crisis, women are becoming more and more exposed, especially as carers and children, she added. Xik said women’s “special physical and mental characteristics” give them a special role in families, according to a collection of comments on family values ​​published in the party’s 2018 Study Times magazine.

The #MeToo movement in the country has been suppressed for being a vehicle that spreads Western values. Peng Party No. 7 officials have been accused of abusing China’s highly censored Internet. The latest case of a woman chained to trafficking has caused a stir throughout the nation and sparked an investigation.

“Instead of creating more space for women’s issues in China, the MeToo movement and the case of Peng Shuai have warned the leadership of the importance of maintaining control over information and politics in China,” said Natasha Kassam, a former Australian diplomat in China. Director of the Lowy Institute’s public opinion and foreign policy program. “Men in Zhongnanhai are worried that other women may speak out.”

In this environment, the path to women’s power has been narrowed. In the 1970s and 1980s, women headed the ministries of the chemical industry, textiles, foreign economic relations, and even the central bank as a fast track to promotions, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News. They have recently been assigned to lead the United Front, which affects education, propaganda, health, and foreign-speaking Chinese, Shih said.

Tristan Kenderdine, director of research at Future Risk Consulting, said that the Chinese Communist Party was born out of the prototypes of Russian city society in the 20th century. “More than a century after its inception, the CCP still adheres to this experimental tokenism of the 1920s,” Kenderdin said.

“As the party shrinks further in political conservatism, it is unlikely to change,” he added.

Although the Chinese cabinet reported in a September report that it had pledged to increase the proportion of women in parliament, the highest political advisory bodies and leadership above the regional level, no target was set. “There is a long way to go to improve women’s participation in national and social governance, and to raise awareness about gender equality,” the State Council report says, stressing that Sun’s position is rare.

Technically, Hong Kong issues are not within Sun’s jurisdiction. That portfolio belongs to Han Zheng, the senior prime minister who serves on the Standing Committee. But his rich experience means that he has nevertheless been called upon to have the largest and deadliest Covid outbreak ever in China, HK01 reported.

In recent days, Beijing has provided instructions on “macro and micro levels” of Covid’s control via a video link, HKO1 said.

“The experience of the sun shows that women’s leaders are just as capable as men,” said Neil Thomas of the Eurasia Group’s Chinese policy and foreign policy analyst. “But the Communist Party does not give women equal opportunities to rise in rank.”

“He’s not an equal opportunity employer,” he added.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a union feed.)


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