Chapter V

Full Advance in Society

In old China, women were excluded from social life. New China has enabled women to make conspicuous progress in all aspects of society, especially in the fields of education, science and technology, culture, sports and public health.

The Chinese government has exerted great efforts to promote women's education. In regular education, the state has adopted measures to increase the proportion of female enrollment. In some remote, poverty-stricken areas and ethnic minority areas, there are free courses and schools specially for women as a measure to remove barriers to female education. In 1992, the attendance rate for girls from 7 to 11 years old had risen to 96.2 percent from less than 20 percent before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The proportion of females in middle schools, colleges and postgraduate schools reached 43.1 percent, 33.7 percent and 24.8 percent respectively. Among engineering college graduates, women accounted for 27 percent. From 1982, when the academic degree system was resumed, to 1993, 1,149 women were awarded doctorates, making up 9.4 percent of total Ph.D recipients.

The Chinese government has also paid special attention to promoting adult and vocational education and eliminating illiteracy among women. There are 1,679 women's secondary vocational schools and three women's vocational colleges, which offer more than 60 specialties suitable for women. Over 13 million women are enrolled in institutions of higher learning. Over a period of 45 years since the founding of the People's Republic, more than 110 million women illiterates have been taught to read, reducing the female illiteracy rate from 90 percent in 1949 to 32 percent in 1993.

Chinese women have made active contributions to education. In 1992, women teachers at all levels made up 30-44.5 percent of teachers nationwide. In Beijing University, the most distinguished university of China, about one-third of the 3,000 academics are female. Among them, 19 are tutors of postgraduate candidates, 68 are professors and more than 300 are associate professors. Over 20 women across the country assume the posts of university president or vice-president. In 1990, 50,000 teachers were cited for having made outstanding contributions. Seventy percent of them were women. In 1993, 5,971 people were cited as exemplary teachers and education workers in the national education system, among them 1,702 being women, or 28.5 percent of the total. Of the 592 model workers in the national education system, women accounted for 150, or 25.3 percent of the total.

The Chinese government has attached great importance to training women scientists and technicians, trying to improve their working and living conditions and encouraging and supporting them in their scientific research. Many women have stepped into the frontiers of science and technology in areas such as high-energy physics, genetic engineering, microelectronics and satellite launching. Together with male scientists, they have achieved many breakthroughs. In 1993, China had 8,097,000 women scientists and technicians, making up 35 percent of the total. In the Chinese Academy of Sciences, there are 186 women directors of research centers, accounting for 11.9 percent of all directors. As to leaders of research teams, 514, or 14.8 percent of them are women. In the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, women make up over 40 percent of scientists with senior professional titles, and 47.3 percent of the 112 academy-level key research projects are in the charge of women. Up to 1993, the Chinese Academy of Sciences had selected 29 women as academicians, making up 5.4 percent of the total. By 1992, 204 women had become state-level experts, accounting for 5.7 percent of all such experts in the country. Among specialists and scholars who enjoy special government allowances, 11,374, or 10 percent of the total, are women. Chinese women have become a significant force in scientific and technological circles.

Chinese women have exhibited their acumen and talents in the arts and culture. In 12 cultural organizations, such as the Chinese Writers' Association, the China Film Association, the Chinese Artists' Association and the China Society for the Study of Folk Literature and Art, women members are quite active and their proportion hits 41.8 percent at the highest. Women writers, performers, painters, directors and musicians are constantly emerging. Since China implemented its reform and opening up policies, the emergence of a galaxy of women writers has brightened the literary scene. At international ballet, piano, violin and vocal music competitions, women made up over 50 percent of Chinese prize winners. With acrobats, it is over 70 percent.

The Chinese government takes active measures to create favorable conditions for women participation in physical training and international matches. With their enterprising spirit, women athletes have done brilliantly in the global sports arena. From 1985 to 1993, China had 404 top sportswomen at international level, accounting for 51 percent of all Chinese athletes at that rank. Between 1949 and 1993, Chinese athletes won 775 world championships, of which 460, or 59 percent, were won by women; Chinese athletes broke world records 725 times, with women accounting for 458 of these, or about 63 percent of the total. At the 25th Olympic Games held in 1992, Chinese women athletes scooped 12 gold medals, taking three quarters of the golds for China. The indomitable and tenacious character displayed by Chinese women athletes embody the new look of the Chinese nation.

Women have made outstanding contributions to the nation's medical and health services. By 1993, China had 2.27 million medical workers specializing in maternity and child care, accounting for 55 percent of all those in the medical profession. The late Lin Qiaozhi, who possessed superb medical skills and high medical ethics, was vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the head of the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of the Chinese Medical Association. She long engaged in gynaecological and obstetrics teaching and research, conducting general surveys and curing common and recurring women's illnesses. She contributed significantly to China's modern gyniatrics and set an excellent example of humanitarianism in healing the wounded and rescuing the dying.

In the 15 years since the reform and opening up, 382 achievements in medical sciences have been honored with state-level awards. More than 50 percent of these achievements were made with the participation of women and a quarter have been independently accomplished by females. From 1983 till now, 15 Chinese women have won the Nightingale Medal, the world's top honor for nurses.

Women have played an irreplaceable role in enhancing social morality, improving social environment and maintaining social stability.

Neighborhood committees can be found in cities and towns all over the country. These are autonomous popular organizations and one of their major duties is to mediate in neighborhood disputes. Most of the active members are women. With all their heart and soul, they perform patient and painstaking work to settle disputes among their neighbors. In doing so, they quash numerous civil quarrels that might otherwise develop into criminal cases and thus promote harmony among residents.

Women take the initiative in helping the government in its efforts to educate people who have taken a wrong step in life. From the very early days after the founding of the People's Republic, many public-spirited women visited prisons on their days off to see criminals whom they had never met. They wrote to felons and encouraged them to rehabilitate themselves during their time inside and try to turn over a new leaf. In the last few years, more and more women have been participating in this type of activity. There are many thousands of "assistance and education teams" across the country, mainly composed of women. These groups not only help young wrong-doers to remould their thinking, but also try to find jobs and spouses for them on their release. China is among countries with the lowest incidence of crime and recidivism. This fact is closely related to the efforts of women.

Responding to the government call for a cultured, scientific and progressive life style, women show great enthusiasm in public welfare work. Most of those who serve in old folks' homes and social welfare institutions are women. They treat elders and youngsters like their own kith and kin. In numerous cities and villages, many women voluntarily take it upon themselves to support and care for aged widows and widowers or adopt orphans. In cities and towns, retired women take over community services on their own initiative. They set up nurseries, snack bars, sales commission agencies and hygiene supervision posts, which are welcomed by the society. In many places, women volunteer to organize associations to ban gambling and thus save many families on the verge of disintegration, promoting a favorable turn in civil practices and the general mood of society.

Owing to historical reasons and the constraints of the level of social, economic and cultural development, some problems continue to impede women's full participation in social life and must not be ignored. In particular, the majority of women have a low level of education and in some rural areas, especially in remote or border regions, female children are not being fully guaranteed their right to education. The government and social organizations are adopting measures to overcome these inadequacies.