In men, therefore they had almost no opportunity

In today’s society, China population is
equivalent to almost nineteen percent of the total world population and it
remarks number one in the list of countries by population. In Japan, Chinese
people are seen basically everywhere. Especially Ginza, Tokyo is the popular
tourists spot among them for shopping. They buy clothes and accessories from
high brand. From this image, Japanese people tend to consider them as “rich” or
people who like expensive stuff although those people are just minority of
Chinese citizens. Of course, image or impression of Chinese people differs from
each country. In fact, the definition of what it means to be Chinese had been
changed over the course of the twentieth century in China. In order to have
deeper understanding of how China and Chinese people has changed, this paper is
going to explore this topic especially by focusing on gender, tradition, and
class identities.

terms of gender, there was no equal right for Chinese men and women. Women were
seen as “inferior being” to men, therefore they had almost no opportunity to
participate in study or workforce. Study or governance were something only men
did. Since they believed that women’s job is taking care of their families, men
were quite against women’s social advancement. However after New Culture
Movement, girls became able to access to the lower primary school level of
education. At the time of New Culture Movement, many Chinese intellectuals
considered Confucianism and old Chinese traditions as one of the obstacles to
develop China as a country, so that they stood against these old Chinese
cultures. Banning Confucianism or old Chinese traditions to some extent were
one of the most important key factors to improve equal rights for women and men
in China. It is true that Chinese women got more access to education after New
Culture Movement, but the main purpose of this change was not to give them
freedom to study, but rather to instill “citizen morality.” In other worlds,
the government was trying to control and unite the citizens by offering education
to women. Chinese women were aware of this situation and often conducted
strikes to show their anger towards educational regulation they had been

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In 1920, the
government finally allowed women to get access to the high-level educational institutions.
For example, Beijing University accepted women to work at the university as a
professor at the same year. As this paper has already explained, women were not
allowed to study at all when they believed in Confucianism. Considering this
fact, employing a female professor in Beijing University is a significant event
in women’s history in China. It can be analyzed that banning Confucianism
actually made women to get more freedom and opportunities to study.

Chinese women were also discriminated regarding workforce. After New Culture
Movement, Chinese women got more access to labor force. Many Chinese women were
employed in textile industries. In fact, the number of women’s worker in
textile industries became bigger than the number of men’s worker. Based on this
fact, living situation of Chinese women seems to have become better. Now they
got more opportunities to work. Yes, it is true, but although Chinese women got
access to workforce after New Culture Moment, they were still not treated as
equal to men, in terms of wage.

Since female
workers were not viewed as potential workers, but rather considered as being
subordinate to men, they were treated as the source of cheap labor force.
Therefore, they were often faced difficult situations in workplaces. For
example, often times they were forced to work twelve hours without any breaks.
From the perspective of industrial employers, employing female workers and made
them overwork with low wages was much more rational than employing male workers
with higher wages. In addition to this issue, many female workers have faced
sexual harassment at work. If Chinese women were eager to work, they had no
choice but to join male-dominated formal unions. Chinese female workers were
quite aware of issues they have been faced with; thereby they started creating
a group called “sworn sisterhood.” This group was formed only by female
workers, and they assisted each other when a member of “sworn sisterhood” was
in need of help. For instance, when a member of this group was forced to work
for long time without long break, other group members covered some parts of her
work in order for her to get longer break. Although female workers faced some
kind of discrimination, they united together and counted on each other. Finally
in 1949, Chinese women mad efforts to get equal payment.

In 1950, the
marriage law outlawed many harsh practices against women. This law includes
arranged marriage, dowries, and child brides. Also women got right to divorce.
“These beneficial changes for women embodied all that the Communist Party
wanted to see as new in the “new” China” (Abraham, 2017). Moreover, “as the
Chinese communist Party centralized its power, women’s rights were subjugated
to the greater goal of running the country” (Abraham, 2017). Although women now
got access to workforce, they were also expected to take care of their children
and family members. Most of the time, the Red Guards and other urban youth were
separated from their families and sent to countryside following Mao’s teaching.
A common phrase was “Father is close, Mother is close, but neither is as close
as Chairman Mao” (Abraham, 2017). Based on these given information, Chinese
women seem to have been taken advantages by Chinese communist party. In other
words, Chinese communist party was good at centralizing its power by
manipulating Chinese citizens.

According to
Michael Dillon, the author of “China: A Modern History,” reforming the
traditional marriage system was one of the most difficult things to do for
Chinese communists party. On the other hand, reforming this system was one of
the highest priorities at that time. Especially in the rural area, arranged
marriage and forced marriage were quite common. However, from the perspective
of modernizing country, this traditional marriage system was regarded as one of
the serious problems and should be prohibited as soon as possible. Chinese
communists party believed that attracting Chinese women by new marriage law
would be one of the ways to ban traditional marriage system. So that,
influential group of women revolutionaries from Chinese communities party
helped to attract Chinese women to the new marriage law. The Marriage Law of
the People’s Republic of China was adopted by the Central People’s Government
in 1950 and it was formally put into effect after a month has passed since the
marriage law had been adopted. “The general principles set out in the beginning
of the document proclaimed the abolition of ‘feudal’ marriage which had ‘held
sway for centuries, based on arbitrary and compulsory arrangement’ and declared
that a new form of marriage had now taken affect, based on the free choice of
partners, monogamy, equal rights for men and women and ‘the protection of the
lawful interests of women and Children'” (Dillon, 2010). Betrothal of young
children and taking of concubines were common in China, but The Marriage Law of
the People’s Republic of China outlawed such practices. It became illegal to
prevent widows to prevent remarrying if they wish to do so, and also dowries
were strictly prohibited. However, just publishing a law did not work for
Chinese citizens. The trend of freely contracted marriage began to spread into
cities and urban areas, but arranged marriage remained in rural areas. One of
the main  reasons behind remaining arranged marriage was because of
coercion replaced by negotiation and family pressure. “The implications of the
new law posed a serious challenge to the authority of the immediate and
extended family: this was the intention of the CCP” (Dillon, 2010).

during the Cultural Revolution, which aimed at a complete transformation of
China, the ideas of being Chinese women have changed. Before the Cultural
Revolution, the traditional idea and expectation towards Chinese women was
being obedient to men. However, from the Cultural Revolution, violence also
became a part of women’s identity. “Especially because they wanted to escape
from a conventional perception of them as passive and gentle, which were all
labeled as ‘bourgeois’ by Mao during the Cultural Revolution” (Honing, 2002).
These women who strongly believed in the teaching of Mao invariably dressed as
men or male army combatants because these were considered as very glorious. It
was common for Chinese women and girls to become aggressive towards what they
think as “bad elements.” They often borrowed leather belts from their fathers
and used them to beat up their suspects. They had almost no feminine
characteristics. They did not put makeup on nor had long hair. They were rather
associated with masculinity by wearing dark color as men and keeping their hair
as short. They joined the group called “Red Guards.” This was formed by Mao in
order for the mass criticism campaigns. As its power became stronger, both boys
and girls received military training from middle school and many schools were
locked down. Students were rather encouraged to join this unit than studying.

 During this period, femininity was supposed to
be hidden by a wearing same clothes as male and when women faced any kind of
sexual harassment, they were the one who would be blamed first. Although
Chinese communists party aimed to erase difference between genders and promoted
gender sameness, Chinese women might have suffered from some problems based on
gender difference. However, young girls were still encouraged to participate in
Red Guards. Even though the circumstances they brought could not be justified,
it is true that gender difference during this time seems to become better. In
fact, the idea of emancipation of women and equal rights for men and women was
connected to the agenda of Chinese communist party: the emancipation of
differences in terms of social classes.

class identities and social classes were very much influenced by the Cultural
Movement. Before the Cultural Movement, intellectuals were on the top of the
social hierarchy in Chinese history. However, according to Mao, “the Communists
Party still held large vestiges of the ‘old thinking’ and ‘feudal costumes’,
which had slowed down the pace of the Chinese revolution, and had led to major
leaders such as state president Liu Shaoqi taking ‘the capitalist road’. Mao
demanded that China’s youth, untainted by the past, should ‘bombard the
headquarters’, bringing down authority figures all across the country from the
top Party leaders to school teachers, doctors, and anyone else who thought
themselves superior because of their education or knowledge of the world
outside China” (Mitter, 2005). Therefore, elite intellectuals became enemy of
the Red Guards formed by Mao. Mao taught them that in order to create socialist
culture, the old culture should be destroyed. Because the gap between elite
intellectuals and common Chinese People had been huge, it did not take time to
attract these common people to the Mao’s idea. Many Chinese people were not
content with their lives. Therefore they were craving for the change.

Mao believed
that “too many of the Party’s bureaucrats, from highest levels down, had taken
the ‘capitalist road’ and had let the revolution lose momentum” (Mitter, 2005).
During the “struggle sessions,” top leaders such as State President and
politburo were humiliated and often faced violent treatment. In worst case,
they were beaten up by the Red Guards to death. Moreover, the smashing old
culture was taken place everywhere by the Red Guards. The Red Guards defaced
and destroyed many of finest monuments and landmarks in China. Items which were
considered as giving people aesthetic pleasures without utility, such as books
and porcelain were also destroyed by them. Mostly they targeted religious
imagery as a particularly noxious relic of feudal society. After the entire
departments of the Central Party apparatus were abolished and combined into
smaller working groups in 1966, a large number of occupants were sent to
investigation and purge. Since label groups by students and workers started to
kidnapping officials and also occupied Party and government offices, civilian
Party organizations stopped operating by the end of 1966. Moreover,
Lower-ranking Party cadres started revolting against upper-class cadres.
“Rebels in countries and cities across the country overthrew top officials,
which set off a new round of power struggles with rival rebel groups that
continued in most regions well into 1968” (Walder, 2017). When military
dismantled independent rebel organizations and punished their leaders,
imposition of military control in the 1968 ended restoration of elder, and
large-scale street battles. “In the place of former structures of government
and Party committees a new form of government was established, a ‘revolutionary
committee'” (Walder, 2017). This “revolutionary committee” observed further
dismantling of what remained of the party-state bureaucracy. A large number of
support stuffs, newspapers, and civilian officials were sent to rural camps,
described as “May 7 cadres schools,” for vague terms of reform.

As a result
of the Cultural Revolution, many Chinese people lost their lives. Most of them
were elite intellectuals. Before the revolution, they were on the top of the
social hierarchy and had nothing to worry about. Yet, the Cultural Revolution
brought them tragic results. The Cultural Revolution happened not so long ago.
However, no one is eager to talk about this incident. After the Cultural Revolution
broke out, even young students started to beat up their teachers. From the
perspective of a person living in today’s society, this incident is difficult
to imagine. However, at the time of the Cultural Revolution, such practices
were pretty common. After Mao got authority, he formed the “Red Guards” and the
Cultural Revolution broke out. As a circumstance, the social status of elite
intellectuals was changed and many of them were killed by the “revolution.”

China has
been through a great change during twentieth century. Women’s position in
Chinese society has changed and also what it means to be Chinese has changed.
In terms of gender issue, women got more access to labor force and got equal
rights. Although they still suffered from sexual problems caused by mainly men,
the environment surrounding them became much better. In terms of traditions,
the new marriage law enabled women to get married with whomever they want to
and they became more associated with masculinity. Tradition concerning Chinese
women has gradually changed as time passed by. Moreover, as a result of the
Cultural Revolution, class identities have changed. Chinese people during
twentieth century have been through both negative and positive changes. 


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