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China on China, more than Half the Sky by Schulz Contreras, Lisbet & Jarnebrink, Lollo

With the prospect of freedom and a career, a growing number of contemporary Chinese women has become an independent urban citizen. The reforms have had a positive impact on the financial position of women in China. However, the changes in society had a shocking side effect. Since the reforms, suicide amongst females in China increased dramatically. Half of all the women on earth who commit suicide are Chinese, whilst even seventy percent of these Chinese women is from the rural areas. The suicide numbers on the countryside are disturbing, but the reason remains unclear. Does it have anything to do with low status, marital traditions or perhaps the one child policy?

Gender Inequality

After the Revolution in 1949, legislation regarding equality was passed. The economic reforms of recent decades have also improved women’s lives. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China the female labor force participation increased dramatically and almost reached the universal level. Even though women in China are actively contributing to the paid labor force at an extent that exceeds numerous other countries, equality in the workforce has yet to be reached. In 1984 the reform of the Regulations of Permanent Residence Registration led to an increase in the migration of rural Chinese workers, especially women. Increased employment opportunities in the city drew women out of rural areas. Thanks to the New Marriage Law of 1950 enforced by the Republic, arranged marriages became less and less common and The Marriage Law specifically prohibited concubinage and other forms of inequal marriages. Later on, the Second Marriage Law was passed in 1980 and enacted in 1981.The Marriage Law banned arranged and forced marriages and shifted focus onto the interests of the children and women. One of the goals was to encourage sexual equality by making daughters just as valuable as sons.

Political Interest

On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was established but because of its political fragmentation, it was only the late 1920s that the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able to reunify the country under its own control. The party made political changes in order to develop China politically into a democratic state. The ongoing political division in China stirred up the tension between the Kuomintang and the Communists, which led to the Chinese civil war. The Second Sino-Japanese War between 1937-1945 involved the Japanese occupation of China, but after the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, the civil war in China continued. In 1949, the Communist Party seized control over mainland China and chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Mao’s reign is best known for the reform project Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. After his death in 1976, reformist leader Deng Xiaoping took power. Discontent of the Chinese population with the government’s policies climaxed in 1989 with the violent suppression of the student protests in Tiananmen Square by the Chinese government. President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji led the nation in the 1990s and were succeeded by Hu Jintao's and Wen Jiabao. In 2013 they were replaced by current President and Premier Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.

Economic Interest

Under the leadership of communist leader Mao Zedong and the People’s Republic of China, industry and business became nationalized under state ownership and socialist reforms were implemented in all areas of society. Mao introduced the campaign Great Leap Forward, aimed to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a communist society through industrialization and collectivization. However, the campaign led to the Great Chinese Famine. After this failed campaign, in 1966 Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, its stated goal was to enforce communism in the country by removing capitalist, traditional and cultural elements from society. When Deng Xiaoping took power after Mao’s death in 1976, he initiated the Chinese economic reforms including the introduction of capitalist market principles. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded in favor of private land leases. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment. Subsequently, President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji led the nation in the 1990s. Under their administration, China sustained an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 11.2 percent. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and maintained its high rate of economic growth under Hu Jintao's presidency in the 2000s.

About the Series

China on China is an eight-part documentary series dealing with politics and daily life in todays China. After centuries of Western dominance, the world’s center of economic and political weight is shifting eastward. In just 30 years, China has risen from longstanding poverty to being the second largest economy in the world, faster than any other country in history. What China says and does is therefore of great importance to the entire world. The series provides a rare insight into the reinvention of this Eastern superpower.

Schulz Contreras, Lisbet & Jarnebrink, Lollo
Copyright Holder
Java Films SARL
28 min.
Year of release
English, Chinese

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