The good, the bad, and the ugly: International Women’s Day in China


Dear reader,

Happy International Women’s Day! Please celebrate by nominating a woman for our SupChina Rising Star Award, which will be presented at the SupChina Women’s Conference in New York on May 14. The judges are Wei Sun Christianson, CEO of China for Morgan Stanley; Zhang Xin, SOHO Group real estate mogul; Yang Lan, popular talk show host and serial entrepreneur; and Merit Janow, dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

On International Women’s Day

The good, the bad, and the ugly: There are some bright spots, but still a long way to go in the battle for fair and equal treatment of women. We’re happy to publish this story on one positive development: One China journalist’s quest to amplify female voices in media.

If you’re in Beijing on March 10, you might want to attend the launch party of NüVoices, “a new editorial collective gathering veteran and emerging writers, journalists, translators and artists to celebrate and support the diverse creative work of women working on the subject of China.”

Elsewhere on the web:

Anxiety of Beijing influence: Today’s update

In February, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of China’s growing influence, saying that China had aggressively placed operatives at universities, “whether it’s professors, scientists, students.” For the last few months, barely a day has gone by without an article in the English-language press about Chinese Communist Party influence campaigns, in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and of course in the U.S. The latest is a long, thoroughly reported piece from Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian in Foreign Policy titled China’s long arm reaches into American campuses:

  • Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSAs) on American campuses are the focus of the article. These are student organizations that play a vital role helping Chinese students abroad acclimatize and make friends, but they are also used for political ends by Chinese consulates and embassies.
  • No CSSA member interviewed by Foreign Policy said that they had “received a request from the embassy to secretly report on other Chinese students, nor have they heard of such requests being made,” but there is clearly political pressure exerted through the CSSAs by Chinese consular staff and Chinese students are “mindful that government officials are just one WeChat message away.”
  • The new Yellow Peril? Asian-American activist groups criticized the FBI director’s comments for unfairly smearing all Chinese people. The Foreign Policy article quotes Bill Bishop on Wray’s comments: “That over-broad and unspecific language is very dangerous and feeds into the risk that this becomes a backlash against people of Chinese descent… I am very worried, especially in this environment, especially with what has been unleashed since the 2016 election, that it could very easily tip into something very nasty.”

Meanwhile in Australia: Jieh-Yung Lo 罗介雍 considers a new Chinese government policy “that allows foreign citizens with Chinese heritage to apply for a special multiple-entry visa granting a residency period of up to five years.” Lo says that this and other types of special treatment for ethnic Chinese result in their loyalty being “called into question unfairly.” He concludes that “[w]hether it is for business, personal, or emotional purposes, Chinese-Australians are once again torn between our heritage and homeland. It is not a comfortable place to be.”

“If our country’s president has more power…this would be a good development”

Even though the proposed constitutional changes that would remove presidential term limits have not yet been approved by China’s legislature, most observers think the amendments are a fait accompli.

  • Although censorship makes it impossible to get any realistic idea of what most Chinese people think about this issue, there has been no shortage of criticism from Chinese journalists and intellectuals.
  • But there are plenty of people defending the decision: A New York Times piece titled Murmurings of dissent upset China’s script for Xi’s power grab (paywall) quotes internet executive Yao Jinbo 姚劲波: “I think people are overinterpreting this issue,” he told the Times, “vowing like all others who would speak to journalists that he would support Mr. Xi’s move.” Based on dozens of recent conversations with friends in China, this attitude is quite common among ordinary people but especially among the business elite.
  • Hong Kong should consider abolishing term limits on its leader, says one pro-Beijing politician “pro-establishment candidate hoping to secure the Hong Kong Island seat in this Sunday’s by-election,” according to the South China Morning Post. “The situation in China is very different from the West… If our country’s president has more power…this would be a good development,” she said.
  • Back on the other hand: Legal scholar Jerome Cohen warns that “[i]f the supreme leader fails to cope with the problems that he will inevitably confront in the next few years, his constituents will know whom to blame, and rivals will be all too eager to seize the advantage.” Cohen says there is “especially high risk of an important mistake in international affairs.” (You can listen to a Sinica Podcast with Cohen here.)
  • Chinese students in America say “Not my president” — Foreign Policy reports on posters appearing on university campuses around the world criticizing the term limit decision, apparently organized by Chinese students.
  • Stealth, speed and guile” is how the New York Times’ Chris Buckley describes (paywall) Xi Jinping’s power grab: “his plan to end presidential term limits showed his mastery of back-room politics.”
  • “At the congress that will grant him indefinite power, Xi Jinping has described something called a ‘new model party system,’ which will ‘provide a China plan for party political development worldwide,’” tweeted the same Chris Buckley, referring to this Chinese-language article.
  • Finally, if you have not had enough of this subject, see our previous reporting on SupChina: Why the removal of presidential term limits shocked so many in China and Don’t talk about the constitution in China.

Yale Law seeks research associate in Beijing

Via China law scholar Jeremy Baum’s Twitter feed: “The Yale Law Paul Tsai China Center is now accepting applications for a one-year Research Associate position based in Beijing. An amazing opportunity for recent college graduates and others with Chinese/English-language skills who are considering a career in law or policy.” Click here to see the ad.