Do women still hold up half the sky?

Post-revolution,  the very first law promulgated by the new communist regime under Mao Zedong in China was the Marriage Law of the PRC, abolishing the feudal system of  arranged and coerced marriages.

Mao Zedong proclaimed that  men and women are equal  and famously said “women hold up half the sky”.

A lot has changed since the heady post-revolution days. The cultural revolution, for one, which affected the lives of nearly everyone alive in China at the time.

With the growth of the market economy, what are the opportunities for women? Whilst Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, often attributes the success of his company to the number of women he employs, the truth is somewhat different.

Advertisements targeted at employing men in tech companies use women as the bait to attract men. From benign ads showing women listing the attributes they like in men (“must be a techie”) to extremely misogynist advertisments which are not simply ‘borderline’ sexual harrassment – some of these ads are blatantly and deliberating identifying women working in tech companies, not as the intelligent, hard-working and brilliant IT specialists that they are, but valuable only as someone being available for sex. Such ads would be cause for legal action in many countries in the world.

In fact, more than 55 % of Chinese tech start-ups are driven by women. Jean -Liu is one of those women. After gaining a Bachelor of Computer Science at  Bejing University, she worked for Goldman Sachs for a decade and then joined Didi, a Uber-like company she made global and is now one of the world’s most successful start-ups, thanks to Liu.

Ellen Pao was an enormously talented IT specialist – a degree in engineering, a degree in law, experience with high-level start-ups – the list goes on – working fora silicon valley company. She sued the company for sexist practices, sexual harassment and discrimination, and lost, at great personal expense. After leaving the company she started her own company to promote diversity in IT and has written a book. about her experiences. Now women and minorities in IT suing for discrimination as become known as “the Pao effect”.

Ellen Pao, photo courtesy of


If women hold up half the sky, and are so talented in the IT field, why then, do advertisements like the ones seen in the following video-blog by commentator and novelist Lijia Zhang still exist?











Seeing China through Chinese eyes – leadership questions and the future

For those of us living in Western countries, or reading Western media, one would imagine that the recent removal of terms for the Chinese leader was all doom and gloom.

Western media, especially in trends following the USA, tends to focus on personalities and their personal style, taking the emphasis off policies. The colour of Trumps hair, the clothes worn by Clinton (H), etc.

But how is the leadership of China question viewed from Chinese eyes?

Jim O”Neill, is a former Goldman Sachs Asset Management and former Commercial Secretary to the UK Treasury. Oh, and an economics professor. He makes some very valid and interesting points. Firstly, about average income.

“In fact, a young Beijing-based entrepreneur I met recently estimates that at least 20% of Chinese – over 250 million people – are now making $40,000 per year. Besides the United States, no other country in the world has that many people generating that much individual wealth. Whether Westerners like to admit it or not, that is a remarkable achievement.”

he continues…

“But even more remarkable is the fact that it has happened under a non-democratic system, and that Chinese citizens appear to be rather content. Although small-scale protests are not uncommon, even among those in the top 20%, they tend to be scattered and fleeting”

and the future? O”Neill assesses it is the hukou system which has the potential to bring down China. This is the system of “household registration” where each citizen is registered as belonging to a particular town. When domestic migrants move to the bigger cities looking for work, this brings problems with their children’s education. Children of migrant workers do not have a hukou for the big cities, and thus cannot access education. It’s a huge problem which has been substantially addressed in recent years, but remains a problem.

Futhermore, it brings in issues of Statelessness.

O’Neill claims this is the big problem facing the Chinese government now, not personality politiics.

“Although the CPC has experimented with scrapping the hukous ystem in smaller cities where it wants to promote growth, it has refrained from doing so in the big cities. Based on private discussions I have had with Chinese policymakers, I know that they see the current arrangement as a major problem. But they do not want to confront it. Their reasoning is that abandoning the system altogether would impose an unsustainable burden on megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai.”

Seeing China with Chinese eyes means understanding what it might be like to live in a country with an ancient, rich civilisation, a country where contrary to western media’s approach is a country which puts the good of the whole nation before individual rights. it’s quite simply, a different philosophical outlook. With this philosophical outlook, it lifted a whole nation of billions of people out of poverty in decades. That is a rare economic achievement in anyone’s books.

O”Neill’s overall analysis regarding the future of China

“Still, my hunch is that something will have to change eventually. A two-tier system in which almost half the population enjoys Western levels of wealth while the rest have no right to health care or social security cannot survive another 15 years. And if this is obvious to me, then it must be obvious to the Chinese leadership, too.”

President Xi, is, above all, a Confucianist. To understand his motives for lifting the time barrier on the leadership positions one must understand the Confucian ethic. The western media could well do with reading The Analects to fully understand Xi, instead of analysing a country and  a leader’s motives based on philosophies which are foreign to that nation. One has to understand the internal logic.

Bejing Professor Yu Dan has written a popularised version of Confucian thinking, Confucius from the heart. It has received a lot of academic criticism, but it’s become a best-seller in a nation trying to recover it’s roots. It’s a good place to start to explore Confucian thought.

So what does O”Neill think?

“So, my third and final point for consideration is that the CPC elites do not want a permanent Xi presidency so much as they want to avoid a forced change of leadership in 2023. My recommendation for Western commentators, then, is to focus on how the Chinese economy evolves in the meantime”

China is focused on the long-term. It is not ruled by a parliamentary democracy whereby countries change political and economic direction with every election. Like O’Neill, I’m not saying one system is better than another. I’m simply saying that political systems emerge out of culture, and it’s impossible to judge one system by the rules of another. It must resonate with it’s own internal logic.

For anyone seriously interested in – or even slightly concerned with – China’s place in the coming global reality,  t’s well worth reading Jim O’Neill’s entire article, Missing the Forest For the Xi.

Happy Reading!

Xi’s vision.

Much of the news about China in the last few days has been about the change in terms for leadership. What do China watchers think about this? Beyond the predictable news headlines, what’s really going on? What has President Xi contributed to Chinese society to date and what does he hope to achieve?

William Jones, Washington Bureau chief of the U.S. publication Executive Intelligence Review, claimed that traditional politics sees countries compete with each other forming “winners and losers” but President Xi’s vision is to create a new form of geopolitics.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi talked about “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics,” which has been a hallmark of Xi Jinping’s leadership. According to the Foreign Minister China is aiming for a “shared humanity” based on peace, stability and economic growth.

Peter Mandelson, ex British government Minister and European Commissioner, is a long time China watcher. Regarding the current leadership, Mandelson says “It is said of China’s best-known post war leaders that Mao saved the country, Deng saved the economy and the present leader, Xi Jinping, is saving the Party. There is truth in this.” Mandelson claims the West underestimates Xi by categorising  him as ” someone who is simply engaged in a giant power grab inside China’s administrative and doctrinal structure”.

He suggests that Xi is attempting to rejuvenate the Chinese economy and he may well be the leader who will “carry China over the threshold into the new era”. For those interested in Mandelson’s analysis, its well worth reading. He speaks with authority as someone who has been engaged in high-level diplomacy with the Chinese. The full article, from which the above quotes are taken, can be found here. 

Foreign Minister Wang’s comments can be found at this link.

Finally, Stephen Perry, from China Global Impact and longtime China watcher, has this to say about Xi’s leadership into the future.

“President Xi has the brief to deliver the next period of change through to 2035. I expect him to do that by the second half of the next decade, provided the world develops stability. I do not think this has anything to do with personal ambition. It is to do with what leadership form will be needed to navigate the rocks of a big change in China.

China is only a threat to us if we make it one.  They have more than enough to do. We need to help take them at their word and create a world of shared future together.”

Stephen Perry’s full article, also well worth reading, can be found here.

Happy Reading!

The featured image is taken from and shows delegates to the 13th National People’s Congress.

The Thucydides Trap.

The what? Whats a Thucydides Trap?

Aussie readers will have heard of Kevin Rudd, former Australian Prime Minister, Mandarin speaker and China watcher. Mr Rudd recently alluded to the “Thucysdes  trap” when discussing China-USA relations.

Thucydides, it turns out, was an Athenian statesman and thinker who lived around the time when Confucius was born. His “trap” was refering to rising states who are gaining power and confronting the existing ‘world order’. The dominant state resists the power of the rising state, and to do so, often turns to war. Avoiding the Thucydides trap means to renegotiate world order in peaceful ways, without resorting to war.

What do we know about China’s future plans? The 2016 5-year-plan aims to develop  ” innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development in the coming years, ”

Along with eradicating internal poverty and continuing the development of renewable energy, China is taking on board global responsibilities and supporting 120 countries to implement the United Nations 2030 plan for sustainable development. Supporting countries to strengthen their infrastucture is a key part of this agenda.

The “Belt and Road” development in Euroasia is China’s recipe for peace through development.

Only the future will tell if our world walks into the “Thucydides Trap” and descends to more global wars – the outcome of which would be terrifying – or heads towards peaceful solutions.

There’s another kind of trap, however – the Kindleburger trap – when rising and falling nation states create a vaccuum where there is no real leader. Rudd refers to this also. Kevin Rudd’s assessment of international relations can be found here:



Spaceship China has been off-air and out of cyberspace for some time. Apologies to regular readers who have been asking me when the Spaceship will relaunch! The Spaceship has been undergoing extensive repairs and is out for a test-drive. More soon!


China in the post-trump Era

China and other countries do things differently.

In the world of geo-politics, China’s global strategies have long been aimed at building trade partnerships. BRICS – the acronym for rising economic powers such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and now including South Africa – has been on the agenda since 2009.

Chinese investment in Africa has been expanding. Since the Premier of the People’s Republic, Zhou Enlai, made a visit to Africa in 1963, African nations have been on the Chinese radar. Chinese national television now has significant news broadcasting time devoted to Africa, including daily English language progams. Last year, Chinese investment in Africa grew by a massive 515% compared to 2015 figures. It’s been suggested that Chinese commercial loans in Africa break down the power of the IMF, an organisation long believed to have contributed to the Third World debt crisis and causing, instead of alleviating, poverty in many nations. 

The New Silk Road is  a geopolitical strategy designed to build bridges between China, Eurasia, and Europe. Trillions of dollars are being invested in infrastructure, which contribute to the development of new trading partners. 2016 saw the opening of a train line, carrying cargo from China to Iran – siginficantly shortening the old sea route trading system that had taken over 30 days.  Jiangsu province has a direct link to Afghanistan, and there are five international lines from Yiwu , (Righteous Ravens) the small commodity market town.

Then there’s the Asia Infrastructure Bank, initially suggested by China way back in 2009, officially launched by Xi Jinping, China’s current President, in 2013, and  officially launched in 2016. Britain led the way for European investors in a move highly criticised by Washington, France, Germany and Portugal soon followed suit, then a host of other players joined – including Australia and New Zealand.

As you can see from the above projects, China has been slowly and steadily building trade partnerships and investment strategies which are bilateral, multilateral, and generally bypass the IMF/WB.

What did we mean when we said “China does things differently?

President Xi gave a speech to the World Economic Forum, on January 17th, three days before Trump was inaugurated. Xi called for continued economic globalisation as a source of prosperity for all. Not once did he mention the change of administration in the USA, but the content of his speech was a major rebuke for Trumpian policies of protectionism.

China’s method, long evidenced, is to build up legitimate and authentic new structures amonst Asian and European nations. It’s also significantly increased it’s domestic economy, to soften the blows on any potential Trump-led trade war.

Whilst ordinary people in the USA, Britain, Australia and other countries have come out on the street in their millions, building alliances and a political movement that refuses to bow down to Trump led policies, in the geopolitical arena, China is continuing to build a new economic order.

China’s approach is thoughtful, long-term, carefully planned and executed. It is based on numerous multilateral agreements, and unlike the European Union, does not rest on developing a common currency.

Most of the world knows that Trump is leading the world on a dangerous path. He has signalled that Japan, led by a man who refuses to admit that any atrocities occurred during WW2, much less admit that the Rape of Nanjing happened, is the USA pivot point in Asia. It’s been claimed he used “twitter wars” to inflame the already volatile and unpredictable leadership of North Korea.

China, on the other hand, has signalled to the world it’s peaceful engagement based on mutual economic benefit. The Huffington post says this

China’s reemergence is peaceful and its opening up to the world is a global opportunity. ”

Even Bloomsberg has noted that China is moving to fill a world leadership vaccum created by the Trump era. Given that it’s only a few days since inauguration – watch this space. The world is about to change.


Sources can be access via the links in the texts. The following sources have been used:

Donald Trump Is Already Tweeting Us Into War with North Korea

Click to access ep85.pdf

Donald Trump Is Already Tweeting Us Into War with North Korea

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