The Making of "Woman": The Evolution of Chinese State Feminism(s) Under Three Chinese Leaders


  • Jessica Yang Stanford Student


feminism, Mao Zedong, Chinese feminism, Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping


Every nation harbors a dynamic “feminism” owing to unique cultural traditions, national experiences, and women’s own experience of “gender inequality.” The nuanced “feminisms” make historical contextualization of national feminisms essential to crafting a more culturally-inclusive feminist rhetoric. Chinese feminist rhetoric is one of the most dynamic in the world. In the last century, China experienced two dramatic socio-cultural transformations with consequences reverberating in every aspect of Chinese society, especially gender relations and feminist rhetoric. While numerous scholars analyzed how the fundamentally-different Maoist and Post-Mao Era “state feminisms” transformed gender relations, very few extended their analyses to contemporary Chinese feminism. Therefore, it is crucial that we analyze the state feminist rhetoric of the current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping—arguably as powerful as both Mao and Deng—to understand the evolution of Xi’s gender rhetoric and its connections to earlier state feminisms. A combined analysis of Maoist, Post-Mao Era, and Xi’s state feminisms will craft a more encompassing picture of Chinese feminisms’ dynamic nature and the fluidity of gender constructions since 1900s China. While Xi’s state rhetoric frames the return to traditional female roles as establishing China’s cultural autonomy and elevating China as a whole, in reality, the emphasis on family and women’s empowerment only serves the state’s interests. Ultimately, Xi draws upon both Mao’s and Deng’s state feminisms to impose his own, arguably more oppressive idea of “gender equality.”