At least for the first time in at least a quarter of a century, the China Communist Party Congress brought to light the striking gender imbalance that exists in the upper echelons of Chinese politics.

For the first time in at least 24 years, not a single woman was selected for the Politburo, which has 24 members.

Over the course of the weekend, Xi Jinping and his allies consolidated their control, and the party’s highest-ranking female leader announced her retirement.

The name of veteran politician Sun Chunlan did not appear on the Central Committee list that was published on Saturday, which indicates that she has resigned from her position as vice premier handling China’s health programs.

Women have never held a significant amount of authority within the world’s largest political party, which boasts 96 million active members, and they have an even smaller amount of power today.

They make up only five percent of the new 205-member Central Committee of the party, while the Standing Committee, which is the most powerful body in China, is still comprised entirely of men and is led by Xi.

At the time, Sun, who is now 72 years old, was the only woman to have ever served in the Politburo, which is the executive decision-making body of the party.

The former party chief of Fujian province and Tianjin municipality became the public face of the zero-COVID policy after she was frequently dispatched to inspect Chinese cities that were in the grip of surging COVID-19 outbreaks. She commanded strict measures wherever she went, which led to the nickname “Iron Lady.”

Experts believe that male patronage networks and engrained misogyny have hindered the careers of talented candidates in Chinese politics, making figures like Sun a rarity in the country’s political system.

It is a far cry from the promise that “women hold up half the sky” that was made by Mao Zedong, the forefather of the Communist Party.

According to Minglu Chen, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, “the Chinese Communist Party’s dedication to women’s rights is more like a commitment to improve women’s economic rights.” This statement was made by Ms. Chen.

The core issue is whether or not women should participate in the paid labor force.

Chen went on to say that the Communist Party has always been and still is, from its beginnings as a social movement to the present day, a very macho and patriarchal institution.

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When it comes to the underrepresentation of women in politics, China is hardly alone.

It has become increasingly difficult for women to defy the assumption that they will put their families ahead of their work as a result of the pervasive social conservatism and the repression of domestic women’s rights movement.

As a means of offsetting China’s fast increasing elderly population and playing into these expectations, the state has encouraged women to have children. This has been especially frustrating for younger women, in part because there is not enough government assistance available to working mothers.

According to Chen, “a lot of women talk about how they cannot juggle the double roles of being a good mother, wife, and worker,” and she claimed that a lot of women do talk about how they cannot combine those tasks.

She went on to say that the majority of provincial officials who are chosen for advancement have numerous degrees from institutions of higher education, which is a prerequisite that puts women at a disadvantage.

A large number of informal patronage networks are also developed through frequent socializing at restaurants in environments that are predominantly male and are frequently filled with alcoholic beverages.

According to Victor Shih, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, “many of Xi’s previous male colleagues in Zhejiang and Fujian are now members of the Politburo.”

However, none of his former female colleagues have been promoted to positions of prominence within the provincial or national governments, let alone the Politburo.

In China, women civil servants can retire at the age of 55, whereas men in the same profession have to wait until they are 60 to do so. However, the retirement age for women officials at the deputy division level and higher is increased to 60.

It is customary for ministers to step down from their positions at reaching the age of 65, while most key leaders retire at the age of 68.

In the year 2001, China implemented an unofficial quota system, which mandated the presence of one woman at all levels of government and party, with the exception of the Politburo. However, because there was not an adequate mechanism for supervision, this was only loosely implemented.

According to Chen’s explanation, “if we had seen a better quota system in place that was reinforced strictly, then we’d start to see other outcomes.”

“The dominance of a single party has also contributed to this.”


Since 1948, there have been a total of only six women accepted into the Politburo. Of those six, only three have been promoted to the position of vice premier, and no woman has ever been invited to join the prestigious Standing Committee.

Observers had high hopes that Shen Yueyue, the president of the All-China Women’s Federation, or Shen Yiqin, who became the third-ever woman to hold the position of chairman of a province party in China when she was made chief of Guizhou, would succeed Sun, but neither of these women was elevated.

In spite of the fact that women make up roughly 29 percent of the entire membership of the Communist Party, an extremely small percentage of women are able to rise through the ranks of the party’s grassroots leadership.

According to Shih, for example, the percentage of women serving on the Central Committee has remained stable between 5 and 8 percent over the course of the past two decades.

According to what he claimed, “discrimination at lower levels prevents them from reaching high-level posts.”

“Because women hold more marginal roles at lower levels, they enter government later than males, and they are obliged to retire earlier than their male colleagues,”

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