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From the earliest times, the Chinese family embodied a model of the entire state of the Celestial Empire. The family was a mini-reflection of the principles and concepts which were the base of the whole state. Thus, the proper relationship between a father and a son provided the correctness in the relationship between the ruler and the subordinate (“Chinese Thought and Institutions in Early Japan” 666). Each member of the Chinese society was assigned his own role and place. In the recent years, the world has an increased interest in the private and public life of women and their position in the society. It should be noted, that this leads to a new look on the role of women in the family and the society. The paper argues that in China the problem of the status of women as well as equality of women and men is regarded as one of the most important and urgent issues in modern conditions. Significant changes in the modern world have contributed to the change of the woman’s role in all areas of her life and accelerated the process of involving her into the social structure of the society.
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Family Values and the Social Position of Women in China
Ensuring equal rights and equal opportunities for all segments of the population to participate in the political life of the country is a necessary prerequisite and condition for the construction of the state. In this respect, the long struggle of women for their rights, primarily for their social situation in the country, occupies one of the central pages in the history of mankind. For China, the issue of women’s equality is specific because traditionally the status of women in the East was extremely low. The low social status of women in medieval Chinese society was due to Confucian norms, according to which “nothing should be heard about a woman outside her home” (“Chinese Thought and Institutions in Early Japan” 670). In the system of Confucian values, a woman was assigned the role of wife and mother, and this role was the meaning of her life.
It should be noted, that the first Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, accepted in 1954, announced the equality of all residents before the official document. Residents of the People’s Republic of China were guaranteed socioeconomic and governmental rights (“Womenʼs Education” 413). In terms of gender, this meant that for the first time at a legislative level women received the rights on an equal basis with men. Later, in the People’s Republic of China the constitutions changed many times, nevertheless, issues related to women’s rights were not reviewed. Relations between the members of the Chinese society were carried out on the basis of established moral and ethical norms. The Confucian scholars singled out five qualities that were considered necessary for harmony in society. These five qualities were called “five permanent”: philanthropy, justice, ritual, wisdom, and trust.
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These norms served as a criterion in the relationships between different members of the society: parent and son, older and younger population, husband and wife. The marriage between a man and a woman was perceived not as the fruit of their love and sensuality, but as a necessary combination of two clans for the performance of established functions in the society on the basis of “five permanent” qualities (“Womenʼs Education” 413). The woman was given the position of a family associate, but not a member of the social group. Thus, women in a traditional Chinese society did not play any sociopolitical role.
The whole range of a woman’s interests and responsibilities was concentrated in the family sphere, where a Chinese woman most often remained a disenfranchised and silent member of the family. In terms of family affiliation between a man and a woman, there was no talk of personal attachment and feelings. The family was the place where the socialization of the society’s members occurred, to which the ethical categories of ’duty’, ’respect for the elders’ in the form of the inner needs of the individual were installed. At the heart of the traditional family were not the relations between a man and a woman, but relations of generations. The Chinese family was created not on the basis of sensual relations, but because of the need to reproduce traditional family-clan ties.
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Problems of Social Role of Women in Modern China
The policy of opening reforms and modernizing the economy of the 20th century have changed the status of women, the model of marriage, the behavior of the younger generation and the very structure of the modern Chinese society. All transformations of the society are based on the Western system of values (“Chinese Thought and Institutions in Early Japan” 670). In modern Chinese society, a woman has become actively involved in many political, economic and legal activities. Traditional Chinese stereotype that childhood is a happy and carefree age has gone to the past. Young girls, starting their careers and spending a lot of time and effort on training, cannot just go on the maternity leave and dedicate themselves to the family.
The majority of the female population are afraid of putting all their efforts to nothing, they are afraid of losing their skills and experience. There are reasons for this fear: despite the new laws on the protection of women’s rights, companies are always cunningly finding reasons to get rid of them. This could not but affect the change in the views of a modern society on the issues of the birth of children and marriage. As the majority suggests, a woman leader must act in accordance with her gender role, which presupposes maternal care and peace, but not rigor and cruelty. In modern Asian societies, women’s political leadership has been a constant stumbling block. As a result of systemic transformations, women have become the ’first person’ in a number of Asian states, which partly destroys the gender stereotype of the traditional patriarchal society and causes the polarization of political forces in these countries (“Womenʼs Education” 420). However, this new phenomenon of world politics had deep historical and cultural roots, and under the influence of a gender factor led to a change in the composition of the ruling elites and the modernization of traditional ideas about power and society.
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Women’s development program clearly outlines the specific goals for women’s participation in political life. The state has clearly set the goal to train and promote women cadres, thanks to which women take a wide participation in the management of public and social affairs. Democratic participation and democratic control of women’s organizations are intensifying, and channels for the democratic participation of women are continuously expanding (“Chinese Thought and Institutions in Early Japan” 672). Representing the broad masses of women, women’s organizations of all levels participate in the development and revision of laws and regulations on the rights and interests of women as well as participate in their implementation and monitor it. The change in the position of the girls in the family was reflected in the freedom to choose the future profession. The girls have become independent in choosing a future life; however the raising of their status in the family did not affect the entire population of China.
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However, the new mass culture, economic conditions and raising the level of education of the Chinese women have been affected by changes in the very forms of family life and the emergence of new social and personal problems. In China, career prospects for women are at a qualitatively different level. To see this, it is enough to look at the number of Chinese students receiving education in the leading universities of the world (“Womenʼs Education” 414). The high social status of women is doubly important because in the modern societies women are the main driving force of consumption. Women tend to consume more than men; it’s enough to compare the number of men’s and women’s stores in any mall in the world. At the same time, in a society where women have an independent source of income, this leads to the formation of a powerful layer of consumers that draws along the accompanying industries considering the current situation of women in the country. It should be noted that despite the obvious development in this area, improving their sociopolitical role, social status, etc., the process is not dynamic enough. To solve this problem, it is necessary to change not only the attitude of the whole society to the woman, but also the attitude of the woman to herself, instilling in her a sense of self-esteem, a belief in one’s own strengths and independence.
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Thus, earlier the women were engaged only in economy, however, they had no rights; everything was managed only by men. Nevertheless, at the present stage, a woman is being increasingly introduced into the public life and contributes to economic, political and cultural development. The rights of women have reached global significance today. In their manifestations, they have become an indicator of the state’s civilization and the level of well-being. Equality is the most important foundation of any democratic society that strives for social justice and respect for human rights. In almost all societies and spheres of activity, women are discriminated against in the family, in society, and in the professional sphere. Discrimination against women is a widespread phenomenon (“The Three Character Classic” 405). This situation is preserved solely because of the established stereotypes, as well as traditional, cultural and religious customs and ideas that belittle the role of women. It should be noted that the state authorities practically ignore the problems of discrimination and the problems of discrimination based on gender (“Chinese Thought and Institutions in Early Japan” 660). All these issues prove once again that it is not enough simply to develop a normative legal act, but it is also necessary to create mechanisms for its implementation and to give these mechanisms a chance to work in full force.
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Summing up, it can be noted that with the advent of the new state, the introduction of the Constitution, the adoption of the Law on Marriage and other legislative norms, the feudal remnants were officially ended; women received rights on an equal footing with men, which, from the point of view of gender equality, is a colossal step forward. Throughout the existence of the People’s Republic of China, there was a problem with the status of women in the society. In the People’s Republic of China, the social position of women became apparent to all. However, given the economic, political and social factors, it will take many decades to resolve gender equality. In family relationships, the most important one should be the relationship between husband and wife. After the beginning of reform and openness to the western culture, changes in this area have the same tendency as before, that is, the consciousness of equal rights between husband and wife is steadily growing. The situation of women in the modern People’s Republic of China is changing every year and gives women the opportunity to be an equal member of the society in all social spheres of life.