By Naihua Zhang with Wu Xu. Taken from Amrita Basu’s work on ‘The challenge of Local Feminism’.
The issues being faced by women were initially brought to public attention by male advocates during the reform movements of the mid-1980s. The liberation of women as part of the national struggle for independence was the dominant strategy of the women’s movement in pre-revolutionary China (till) 1949.
In the post-revolutionary China i.e. till 1978, the Communist Chinese party’s theoretical framework on the women’s question has been based on the Marxist, Nationalist, and Fourth May feminist discourse. It links women’s oppression to the rise of private ownership and class society, and views women’s liberation as a necessary and inevitable part of the socialist revolution.
It was also shaped by its theory and practice of a mass line, a working philosophy and leadership style initiated by Mao Zedong to maximize enthusiasm and participation of the people in the revolution. Mass organizations were organised to act as an intermediate structure to connect society to the party I state. The gender interests of women are often downplayed when there is a conflict in interests between women and the state.
The Communist Chinese party’s ideas about women’s liberation became the ideology of the women’s movement which subsequently subordinated the independent interests of women to state policy; this marked the beginning of women as a state product.
With the completion of the nationalisation of industry and commerce, and the collectivisation of agriculture in 1956, China declared that the socialist transition was essentially complete. This implied that issues such as the equality of women were essentially resolved.
The ACWF (All China Women’s Federation) hotly debated ‘how to view the women?’ question, in this changed social context. CCP leaders did not want to tangle with this theoretical impasse and asserted that continual emphasis on sexual inequality was counter to the revolutionary cause.
Unfortunately, the political climate pressed the ACWF to adopt this position, and in 1957 it declared that socialism had brought women’s liberation and equality between men and women. In the years that followed, notably during the cultural revolution of 1966-1976, women’s issues tended to be buried beneath the all-consuming emphasis on class struggle.
To understand this work more precisely, refer to
Featured image: Chen Xiurong, Vice-President and member of the Secretariat of the ACWF, addressed the audience in Beijing on May 4, Chinese Youth Day, to mark the 90th anniversary of the “May Fourth Movement.” [womenofchina.cn]