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Ambassador Fu Ying Talks with British Female Diplomats
2008/11/24

On 23 October Ambassador Fu Ying had a discussion with over 30 British female diplomats at the invitation of Gillian Merron MP, new Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Fu Ying first introduced development of women's cause in China. She said that China had had over 2000 years of feudal system in which women suffered tremendous inequality and discrimination in marriage, education, inheritance and etc. Genuine emancipation of women started with the founding of the People's Republic, whose founder Chairman Mao once said that women could hold half of the sky.

The constitution of the People's Republic of China has a number of articles to ensure gender equality. Women's political and social status has been greatly enhanced. "Equal pay for equal work" fundamentally ensures their economic status. Their employment level and participation in politics have also increased considerably over the years.

Fu Ying introduced the development of China's diplomacy she experienced over the past 30 years. She said that this year marked the 30th anniversary of reform and opening up. China's diplomacy, in the important past 30 years, could be divided into 3 phases:

The first phase is the ten years after 1978 when China just opened its door to the world. Many delegations went abroad to learn from foreign countries. In state-to-state relations, common interest between China and the West increased and cooperation began. This was conducive to a peaceful external environment for reform and opening up.

The second ten years highlighted China's relations with its neighboring countries. Fu Ying said she was lucky in participating in the international conference on Cambodia e.g. Paris Conference. The year-long talks provided an important platform for China to enhance understanding, improve relations with the Asian countries and deal with the Western countries. She took part in the process of the conference as English interpreter and later joined the UN peace keeping operation in Cambodia.

The latest phase of China's diplomacy started with the new century. A major feature of this phase was the gradually established partnership with major western countries on the basis of comprehensive diplomacy. Another important talk in this phase was the Six-Party Talks on Korean nuclear issue. Fu Ying said that she brought lessons from the talks on Cambodia as a member of the Chinese delegation. China's diplomacy was constantly faced with new challenges and required new concepts and practice.

Fu Ying said that female diplomats played an increasingly important role in China's diplomacy team. Of the 800 ambassadors that the People's Republic of China had appointed so far, 45 were women. At present, there were 1600 female diplomats in China, accounting for nearly 1/3 of the total. Of the 160 Chiefs of Mission, 22 were women. There would be more senior female diplomats with the development of China's diplomacy.

Fu Ying said China's women still were faced with various difficulties though their overall career developments were good with constant progress, including contradiction between work and family and the discrimination against women in society. These could not be overcome overnight. Women had to pay more in order to succeed.Female diplomats especially had to do a good job with a high degree of responsibility. Caring for family and happy family life were extremely important for career women who have families. It was unimaginable for them to manage their career well without love and selfless sacrifice from family.

Gillian Merron also talked about her early life and work experience. She was born to a traditional worker's family in Britain. She was lucky to receive college education which was rare for young women of her age. She later decided to join the Workers' Unions. At that time all Unions in Britain were dominated by men and female cadres were very rare. She took great courage to enter this world of men and underwent unacknowledged setbacks.

A small talk changed her fate. Clare Short, female Labor Party MP once had a discussion with her. She encouraged her to go into politics. She pointed at Merron and told her that she could do whatever Short could do. Merron was greatly encouraged. She decided to go into politics. She was elected MP in 1997.

Merron said that women in Britain had many difficulties to do politics. It was only 80 years ago that women had the rights to elect and be elected, which is not long in History of democracy in Britain. There were not many female MP, not to mention female Secretaries. Currently, of the 183 Chiefs of Mission, only 23 are female. Women were not paid equally for the same work they did. There was still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in Britain.

Participants also discussed obstacles to women's career development, whether female diplomats should copy their male counterparts or form their own style and how to handle the contradiction between career and family. Fu Ying's sincerity and tireless speaking were well received among the audience and was given a big hand.

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