China is often held up as a model for women in Asia. Women made great strides in the early decades of Communist rule, and the government has taken pains to portray women as equal to men, starting with Chairman Mao’s declaration that women “hold up half the sky.”
But the economic boom that has created opportunities for women has also fostered a resurgence of long-repressed traditional values. More and more men and women say a woman’s place is in the home, wealthy men take mistresses in a contemporary reprise of the concubine system, and pressure for women to marry young is intense. In the office, Socialist-era egalitarianism has been replaced by open sexism, in some cases reinforced by the law.