Women Suffrage in China in the 20th Century


WomenSuffrage in China in the 20th Century

WomenSuffrage in China in the 20th Century

Thegrowth of the rights of women in China has developed over time alongwith the history and development of the Asian country. One of therights of women that can be traced through the history anddevelopment of China is their right to vote. Women’s suffrage iscommonly understood to be the right of women to vote and also theirright to stand for electoral office. In Asia, and china in specific,the right of women to vote developed as the country embraced themodern views of life and the influence of the western ideologies ofhuman rights. This paper will explore the development of women’ssuffrage in china to understand the factors leading to the growth ofwomen’s rights.

Overthe decades, the history of the Chinese women’s suffrage movementremains largely unexplored and as a consequence, misconceptionabounds. During the early nineteenth Century, China had no suffragemovement worth examining. The women waged a very fruitful andsustained struggle over the course of more than four decades, notonly to win gender equality in political rights, but also to gain aguaranteed minimum quota of seats for women in parliament. Despitethe difficulties presented by political repression, economicinstability, and war, Chinese women`s suffrage activities continuedtheir struggle. They changed tactics, shifting speaking position andinvoking different ideological weapons to suit the changing times.

Theflexibility of the tactics and continuing change in thesociopolitical context conspired to the diminished recognition of thewomen’s suffrage movement in China over the long term. The tworevolutions impacted the Chinese women’s suffrage movement. TheChinese women’s suffrage movement started with the anti-Qing andpro- Republican movement in the first decades of the twentiethcentury (Edwards,2008).Women proponents of a Republican government believed that all womenhad all right within the future republic (Hannam &amp Auchterlonie,2000).

Duringthe reign of Qing, China’s Women’s suffrage activities staunchlyopposed it. The reason was that they considered the establishment ofa democratic republic to be a prerequisite for women’sparticipation in politics (Edwards,2008).In 1911, the Qing monarchy was overthrown. Women political activitiesassumed that the advent of democracy meant equality for women as wellas men (Edwards,2008).However, male’s revolutions at a point betrayed women in theprocess of dividing power. To both conservatives and radicals,women’s suffrage was a useful but expendable bargaining piece inrealizing their broader political goals. The constitution of 1912 andits accompanying electoral law, excluded women from participatingoptically in the new Republic of China.

China’ssuffragists embarked upon an intense and campaign to reassert thereto equality and liberty as a human being. Their invocation of naturalrights was the continuation of the rhetoric used to rally support forthe Republican movement against the Qing monarchy and carriedcurrency among a broad spectrum of china’s politically activepopulation. The women’s suffrage activities engaged in extensivelobbying, protest, and parades. On 1912, in frustration at thecontinued resistance to women’s suffrage by china’s provisionalparliamentarians, women stormed the parliamentary chamber, demandinga fair a hearing on their proposed constitutional amendment.

Afterbeing forced to expel, women returned to smash the windows of theparliament in the direct and conscious imitation of the recent actionby British suffrage. Opposition to their cause over the time led tothe strengthening of their activism as the country realized itsimportance to the society. The struggle of the women’s suffrage ledto the cause of tension among the Chinese political interactions.From the research, china’s first suffrage was few and like the menwho were active in politics during the time (Edwards,2000).Women wanted to be active in politics so that they can practice,nationalism and take active roles in the country.

Manyof the women from the second wave group like the UWAs served asleaders in this third wave of activism. However, women from bothmajor political parties were in involved. The split between the GMDand the CCP made nonpartisan feminist activity dangerous, but manywomen, like Liu Wang Liming, persevered with support from feministwithin the two main parties (Edwards,2008).During the war against Japan, China established a semi-democratic,multiparty forum called the people’s political council, and madesome of the China’ prominent feminists were appointed or elected tothis advisory body. The protracted debates on the constitution, thewomen representatives successfully argued for the allocation of theminimum quotas for women. The participation of women in the PPCdemonstrated the effects of china’s women politicians in furtheringwomen’s opportunities in China.

Aproper closure that pointed the success of the women’s suffragemovement remained problematic in the case of China. It was due to thelack of closure in the national geopolitical structure. During1946-1949, the country slipped into civil war as the ruling partyfought to suppress the rising power of the others (Edwards, 2008).Once the communists won the war, hence, they ignored the decision ofthe previous government and instead set about creating theirconstitution. The situation led to the creation of other government,1949 then hailed as the year Chinese women were guaranteed equalitywith women. Since then the history of Chinese women Suffrage movementhas been consistently subordinated to the two major political blocks(Edwards, 2008).

Additionally,the People’s Republican china’s historical narrative of theChinese women’s movement centered on the role of the CPP inliberating Chinese Women from centuries of oppression. Itconsequently suppressed the contribution of the now- CPP-affiliatedwomen’s movement of the first half of the century through themaintenance of a grand hegemonic narrative.

Theuniversal history, therefore, postulated that the women’s rightsmovement of the century traces the CPP’s initiatives in improvingthe status of women from the 1930s. Making no at the time, mention ofthe women’s suffrage activism that led to the proclamation ofgender equality in both Hunan and Guangdong provinces in 1921 (Hannam&amp Auchterlonie, 2000). At the time, the party consisted of a merehandful of radical intellectuals while the women’s suffragemovement had been active for over a decade. Instead of the history ofthe women’s suffrage groups, the party of China supported the skillin teaching and advocating for women’s suffrage in the country(Edwards,2000).At the same time, it was challenging to promote women’s suffrage,especially in the parliament. Over time up to recent years, China hasdeveloped and supported the rights of women to take part in the rightto vote, yearn for the seat and rule others (Hannam &ampAuchterlonie, 2000)

Whilemost feminist activist activities are inclined to the Western women’smovements, the existence of activism for women`s rights in China hasbeen instrumental. The methods and styles are not entirely applicableto the histories of the women in the nation of Asia. The imperativeof national independence or national rejuvenation dictated by decadesof imperialist or colonial required a different set of allegiance andstrategies on the part of the women’s suffrage activities. Theprocess of reformulating and rebuilding the nation required as adirect consequence of Western colonial and imperial endeavorssimilarly necessitates a different scholarly approach (Crawford,2001). The identification of a year victory needs to recognize ashaving multiple problematic political implications in newly imaginednations. According (Bailey,2012), thecreation of an affirming rediscovery of women’s enthusiasm fordemocracy is often undercut by suspicions of such a celebration ofwestern style democracy.

Factorsassociated with Women Suffrage in China

Theright for women to vote in china developed with the country’sexposure to the literature and publications about women’s suffrage.The struggle for Chinese women to vote developed along with theexposure of women to the global activism to achieve equal rights.According to Barlow(2004), thestruggle to achieve equal rights for women is often thought to havebegun with the growth of the need for women to have an equal socialand economic space with men. This desire developed to china with theaccess of modern feminism activist knowledge by the women in theChina.

Anotherfactor that relates to the development of women suffrage in china inthe 20thcentury is the growth of the global feminism movement. Feminismmovement is a global activism for the rights of women in the society,and in all the perspectives of life such as social, economic andpolitical aspects (Barlow,2004).This was strengthened by the development of strong women’s rightsactivists in the country. These activists developed the concept ofwomen voting and taking roles in the elective positions to be votedfor. This was challenging, but the activities of the women activistspromoted the growth of women’s suffrage in the country.

Accordingto Crawford(2001),women won the right to vote after a continued activism for not justthe suffrage right but also all the other rights. This activism isnot limited to certain countries, but all other countries. However,in China the perception of feminism and women’s activism as awestern idea was a hindrance at the very time their suffragemovement. During the period, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Unionintroduced the internationalism of the women’s suffrage movement inChina (Bailey,2012). Thereforetension resulted in to the view that the struggle for equal rightsfor all genders was a western ideology.

Anotherfactor that relates to the development of women’s suffrage in chinais the government’s passage of the constitutional rights in Chinain 1947. During the constitutional changes of 1947 and politicalchanges in 1949, Chinese women gained some suffrage rights as theRepublic of China was being realized as the new government. At thistime, the growth of the feminist movement was developing in theworld, and was gradually influencing the Chinese society. Themovement later developed to incorporate Chinese women’s suffrage aspart of the larger rights of women as the country sought genderequality.


Women’ssuffrage in china developed in the twentieth century as a result ofthe social, political and economic changes that took place in thesociety. While the role of activism and feminism played a great role,the political changes in the country as well as the influence of themodern western ideologies also contributed to the progress of women’srights. Therefore, the recognition of the inevitability of theintegration between nationalist and feminist struggle is needed. Thesuccess of the feminists and the growth of equal civil rightsconclude the circumstances that explain the development of women’ssuffrage in china.


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