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China’s Xi blunt in wanting women to get married, have babies as nation’s population plummets

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(, Nov06’23) – China’s top officials on women have on Oct 30 downplayed gender equality and focused, instead, on President Xi Jinping’s goal for Chinese women: Get married and have babies, reported the New York Times Nov 3. The National Women’s Congress, held every five years, has long been a forum for the ruling Communist Party to demonstrate its commitment to women.

“We should actively foster a new type of marriage and childbearing culture,” Xi has said in a speech at the Congress’s closing meeting on Oct 30. He wanted party officials to focus their ole on influencing young people’s views on “love and marriage, fertility and family,” while making no mention of women at work.

The report noted that the language used by senior officials was another glimpse of how the party sees the role of women. In a departure from a two-decade tradition, Xi’s deputy, Ding Xuexiang (first vice premier), has failed to mention in an opening address at the congress a standard sentiment: that gender equality is a basic national policy.

Xi’s remarks and the officials’ support for his position came in the context of the fact that the Party desperately needs women to have more babies. China has been thrust into a demographic crisis as its birthrate has plummeted, causing its population to shrink for the first time since the 1960s. It is also facing a social welfare system that is severely underdeveloped and unable to support a rapidly aging population, and leaders seem to want women to fill the gap, the report noted.

Chinese president Xi Jinping. (Photo courtesy: Xinhua)

“Doing a good job in women’s work is not only related to women’s own development but also related to the harmony of families and society, as well as national development and progress,” Nov 1 quoted Xi as having said at the Congress, citing China’s state media Xinhua.

As China’s population has begun to decline, raising fears of a looming demographic crisis, China’s leaders are putting pressure on women to curtail their career and educational ambitions and instead return to traditional roles in the home, the report noted.

In its early decades, the Chinese Communist Party bolstered its revolutionary credentials by emphasizing women’s equality both inside and outside the home. But the party’s own top ranks have long been male-dominated, and in recent years Beijing has cracked down on Chinese feminists and the country’s own #MeToo movement, the report said.

The Party imposed a repressive one-child policy to slow population growth in 1979, but has in recent years relaxed this and now allows couples to have three children each. But the result, even with all sorts of incentives for getting married and having children, has been a series of disappointments.


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