September 10, 1995 in Nation/World

China Says Its Women Better Off Report Retaliates For Hillary Clinton’s Criticism

New York Times

In a detailed report on the status of women, Chinese authorities assert that women enjoy more personal safety, greater career opportunities and better legal protection in China than in the United States.

The report was an apparent response to criticism of China’s human rights record by Hillary Rodham Clinton and other participants at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women being held here.

It argues that even though “certain groups in the United States” have attacked China over the status of its women, the Chinese government has taken a far more progressive stance toward women than has the United States.

“The position and conditions of Chinese women are in no way inferior to the situation of the women in the United States and are indeed much better on the whole,” said the report, issued late Friday by the New China News Agency.

Although the report is defensive in tone, there is some basis to the Chinese claims. Since the Communist revolution in 1949, women have advanced far in government positions, as the report asserts, and have achieved equal status in the home in many urban families.

If few women have reached the very top ranks of the governing Communist Party - there are no women on the 20-member Politburo and only 12 on the 189-member Central Committee - they have been promoted further in midlevel government positions than American women have.

According to the New China News Agency report, whose statistics may not be entirely accurate, women account for 31 percent of all government employees in China, compared with only 22 percent in the United States.

It said that Chinese women in senior managerial posts, defined as directors of enterprises or institutes, also outnumber their American counterparts, 10 percent versus 3 percent.

Another obvious difference, apparent to anyone who has visited here, is women’s physical safety. Incidents of violent crime against women are far rarer in China than in the United States, and women generally feel safer walking alone on a city street here late at night than they do in the United States.

Domestic violence against women is also believed to be far lower in China than in the United States, although many such incidents in China go unreported.

Less relevant, perhaps, are the report’s arguments that a greater number of Chinese women vote and are elected to local councils than in the United States, because elections in China are generally staged and because the legislatures almost uniformly follow instructions from the Communist Party.

China’s constitution, the report also argues, specifies equal rights for women, which the U.S. one does not. But China’s constitution also grants its citizens freedom of speech and assembly, rights not always respected.

Yet China’s modern government was established with a clearly stated aim of achieving equal status for women, never an official aim of the U.S. government. And with a legacy of heavily traditional attitudes toward women when it came to power in 1949, the Chinese government has faced an uphill battle.

“China is faced with more difficulties than the United States when it comes to enhancing the status of women,” the report states.

Participants in the U.N. conference have attacked China for its abortion program, which aims to create one-child families, for forced sterilization of Tibetan exiles, and for the practice of infanticide, in which parents kill infant girls because they want boys.

xxxx CHINA VS. U.S. China’s report asserts: 10% of women are senior managers versus 3% in U.S. Rates of violent crime and domestic violence are far lower. China’s constitution specifies equal rights for women. America’s does not.

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