Ursula Kruger

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2017/10/27Sun Chunlan: The Chinese Female Politician

Ever since the founding of the Popular Republic of China in 1949, no woman has occupied a seat at the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the most important political organ in China.  At the Politburo, the second most important organ of Chinese politics, out of 25 members there is only one woman. Her name is Sun Chunlan and we can consider her one of the most important female politicians from the Asian giant.


Besides being a member of the Politburo, Sun Chunlan is head of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) since 2014. This is the center of operations to promote China’s foreign policy. Under the mandate of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the UFWD manages relations with the non-communist elite at the local and global levels, including personalities and organizations with social, commercial, or academic influences.  


Sun, who is member of the CPC since 1973 and has a degree on mechanics, was chosen as Head of Party of Tianjin in 2012. She succeeded Zhang Gaoli, one of the seven members from the Standing Committee of the XVIII National Congress of the CPC. Before, Sun was also Head of Party in the province of Fujian.


Her increasing power has given her the opportunity to travel to several countries. In one of her tours she visited Peru, where she met former President Ollanta Humala to dialogue about economic cooperation mechanisms, the bi-oceanic Peru Brazil train initiative, and about simplifying the visa processes amongst both countries.


Before the XIX National Congress of the CPC, taken place few weeks ago, some analysts speculated about the possibility of Sun becoming part of the seven most powerful politicians club, but it did not happen. As it was expected, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang were reelected as President and Premier respectively, and five new members were elected for the Standing Committee, all male.


This was the last opportunity for Sun to join the Standing Committee, since being born after 1950 would make it impossible for her to be elected on the next Congress in 2022: retirement age according to Chinese law is 68 years old. Also, the participation of a female member on the Standing Committee cannot be guaranteed until the next 10 years, since we would have to wait for the admittance of another woman to the Politburo in 2022 for the purpose of having an eligible female candidate for 2027 elections. While it is established that a member of the Standing Committee must serve at least one previous term at the Politburo, the rule has been broken in the past.


Out of the 2287 delegates of the XIX National Congress of the CP,C 551 are women, representing approximately 24,1%. On the other hand, only 20 out of 205 members that make up the Central Committee, considered the third most important organ of Chinese politics, are women, representing 4,8%.


In the recent XIX Congress, Xi Jinping presented several objectives for the next 30 years. Amongst them improving the quality of life of all Chinese citizens, making China a leader in innovation and achieve the level of a modern country by 2035, and by 2050 become a leading global power. Although Xi has reassured his commitment to promoting the “important role of women as “half of the sky” and support them in the realization of their own dreams and aspirations, both in their careers and personal lives”, increasing women’s participation in politics will position China not only as a global leader, but as a reference for developing countries.




Eco Huang. “And then there was one: A lone female sits among the top of China’s Communist Party”. Quartz. 

Presidente recibe a dirigente china. El Peruano. 10 de noviembre de 2015

Sun Chunlan. Revolvy

Las y los líderes del mundo coinciden: debemos cerrar la brecha de género. ONU Mujeres. 27 de setiembre de 2015

Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China. Wikipedia