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“‘Girl Power, Green Tea and Giant Pandas’: A China Visit: The apparent differs from what is beneath

C3S Report No. 0155/2016

This is an Event Report of the Young Minds of C3S Meeting, 24.12.2016.

The second Young Minds of C3S meeting was held on December 24 2016 at C3S, Athena Infonomics Building, T. Nagar, Chennai. It was a well attended event, with C3S members, research officers, students from city colleges and Pondicherry and NGO professionals. A birthday celebration was held for Ms. Raakhee Suryaprakash, Associate Member, C3S.

The C3S December Monthly Meeting was combined with the YMC3S meet. Cmde. R. S. Vasan IN (Retd.) welcomed the gathering and gave updates about C3S activities and upcoming events. He requested that the Young Minds not limit themselves to the meetings but also take active part in the online discussions. They were also encouraged to participate by coming up with out-of-the-box ideas for the way forward. The responses from Young Minds in the online discussions have positively reinforced the goals of the forum.

vasan

Ms. Asma Masood, Research Officer, C3S and President, YMC3S addressed the gathering. The title of her talk, “Girl Power, Green Tea and Giant Pandas: A China Visit” was chosen because there is a common element among these three aspects: What is apparent is different from what is seen beyond the surface. Under this context, China’s women have progressed tremendously under the umbrella of Communism; however there remains scope for improvement. In addition, the ‘personality’ of green tea, like that of the Han Chinese, may be one of efficiency but it lacks a unique flavour or ‘identity’. Lastly, the ‘giant panda’ of foreign policy in China may appear benign and friendly, but there is a lurking of unpredictability and hostility around the corner. All these were to be observed from the prism of Ms. Asma’s China visit as part of an all-India think tank delegation chosen by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PRC and Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi.

To begin with, Chinese women have made giant strides in many spheres. For instance, Beijing has sent two Chinese women to space- Astronauts Liu Yang and Wang Yaping travelled to space on June 16 2012 and June 16 2013 respectively, to commemorate the 49th and 50th anniversary of the first ever space shot of a woman astronaut i.e. Valentina Tereshkova. Yet, as seen by reports in space.com, China prefers its female astronauts to be married as they as “physically and psychologically more mature”. This shows that patriarchy exists even in the highest echelons of science, that is, space, in China.

Nevertheless, the figures for number of women scientists and technicians in China are heartening: 9.88 million or about 39.9 per cent of the total. Despite these advances, there are some obstacles. For instance, single women in China who are past a perceived marriageable age are dubbed as ‘Sheng Nu’ or ‘Leftover Women’, even by the government. Besides, women with a Ph.D are called ‘Third Gender’, as they are assumed to give more importance to their careers than to their families. This puts forth an ironic scenario: If a female, single Chinese astronaut who has attained a Ph.D goes to space, there will be pockets of people in China who will term her as ‘Sheng Nu’ or ‘Third Gender’.

asma

Women in China are given the opportunity for economic equality, as recommended by communist ideology. The key word here seems to be ‘economic’, not ‘political’. Despite the provision for 50% representation for women in China’s Polit Bureau, there is only a figure of 23.4% representation observed at the national level. A BBC news report also documented how its reporter was stopped from interviewing an independent female candidate for district elections in China.

While such scenarios exist, there are other positive factors that play out. Women in China are safe, as seen during Ms. Asma’s visit. A group of women were practicing aerobics to music outside a shopping mall at 10 p.m. in Beijing: a sight that would cause a sensation in India! Perhaps one reason they are safe is that the Chinese are immensely sensitive to criticism. A television documentary once telecast how Chinese students are brought up in schools to admit their mistakes openly, point out each others’ blunders and to vow not to repeat them. This breeds a sense of fear of humiliation and condemnation among the Chinese. It brings to mind interesting questions: How does this treatment of children at school during their formative years affect their behaviour as adults? Does the clash of strict upbringing at school and being pampered as a single child at home by parents and grandparents also mould their personality? How do these factors play out when comparing the childhood experiences with the manifestation of criminal behavior in some adults, which is a significant concern in China, even among politicians?

This trepidation of censure brings to mind another facet: that of innovation in China. While visiting the Communist Party School of China in Beijing, Ms. Asma asked a Chinese official whether the ongoing programme to encourage innovation in China will mean encouragement of creativity among Chinese youth. The answer was that innovation is a “double-edged sword”, as it requires room for mistakes to be made.

Coming to the point of individuality in China, it is interesting to observe that the young Chinese women, who guided Ms. Asma and her accompanying think tank delegates from India, admired the Indian women’s attire. They confessed they lacked unique clothing such as in India. This clearly shows that the absence of a unique cultural diversity among the Han Chinese. The Chinese government is trying to promote Confucianism to fill the void. It remains to be seen how this solution will pan out.

China’s foreign policy is seen as two-sided, as apparent from its relations with South East Asia, India and Japan. There is both friendship and assertiveness. The latest development is that of U.S President-elect Donald Trump accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s President Tsai-Ing Wen. This has irked Beijing, which aims to keep ready its response to defend the One–China principle.

Hence it is observed that there are inconsistencies among China’s women empowerment, cultural identity and foreign policy. There are negatives which are plain. However, at Young Minds of C3S, our goal is to overcome the obstacles and bring out positive perceptions. This should lead to improved people-to-people contacts among India and China. One idea is to bring the Chinese students in India to the Young Minds forum for interactive engagement of ideas and information.

This suggestion set the tone for the ensuing brainstorming session.

surya

Ms. Preethi Amaresh, Secretary, YMC3S, gave the vote of thanks.

(Compiled by Ms. Preethi Amaresh, Secretary, Young Minds of C3S and Intern, C3S).

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