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As diligent and devoted as Chinese men

Updated: 2014-07-26 09:25
By Wu Yixue ( China Daily)

The concept that "men are superior to women" had dominated Chinese society for millenniums until the founding of New China in 1949, after which Chairman Mao Zedong declared that, "women hold up half the sky".

Since then women in China have witnessed a continuous rise in their political, economic and social status, which has helped them win the same rights as men. The Chinese society is also bidding farewell to the old era in which women were "subordinate" to men and has built a general cultural environment of "equality between men and women".

However, a recent article, belittling the image of Chinese men, on Tianya Community, a very popular domestic social network website, and the heated online and offline debates it sparked have once again highlighted the kind of roles Chinese men and women play.

Titled "Women in Shanghai streets are obviously at a higher level than men", the posting on Tianya says: "China's men nowadays are either poorly dressed or ill-behaved, compared with the fashionable, graceful and attractive female partners alongside them ... None of the Chinese men are comfortable-looking." Opinions expressed by netizens who think likewise follow the posting.

This is not the first time that Chinese men's image has been smeared. In 2003, Yan Lieshan, an essayist, wrote an article saying: "Chinese women, either female migrant workers in ordinary clothes or well-dressed office-going women, are all in good shape, but Chinese men extensively have a lackluster face, dry hair and puzzled eyes ... Seldom does one meet a Chinese man with a fit build and gentle demeanor ... thus Chinese men are not worthy of Chinese women."

Chinese men suffered another blow when surveys conducted by a Shanghai-based researcher echoed Yan's views on Chinese men. Since 2007 Zhang Jiehai, a psychologist with Shanghai's Academy of Social Sciences, has conducted several surveys on "Chinese men in the eyes of Western women" and the results have been similarly disappointing. According to his surveys, most Western women believe Chinese men pay very little attention to their appearance, including their clothes, hairstyle, figure and demeanor. As a result, Western women take no interest in Chinese men.

Yoshikazu Kato, a Japanese columnist who specializes in China-related issues, corroborates those views. "Some foreigners in China have told me that they had a ... strong urge to rush to salvage slim and pretty Chinese women from their bad-looking and ill-behaved male partners," Kato said.

But do Chinese men deserve such criticisms?

Chinese men have been the same for millenniums. They are still devoted to the country, society, the women they marry and their whole families. It is a long-established Chinese tradition for men to shoulder more social and family responsibilities.

In Chinese culture, a man is praised more for his inner qualities than his appearance, which is considered superficial.

Parents have been telling children for centuries that they should not judge a person by his/her appearance. A hefty figure does not make a man - it is the sense of responsibility and the courage to face difficulties that make a man.

Fine feathers make fine birds.

It is true that China's rapid economic development and deepening reform have made women more financially independent and prompted them to dress like their Western counterparts. But we should not forget that without the support of men - be they fathers, brothers, fianc��s or husbands - this would not be always possible.

Compared with Chinese women, men are under more financial pressure, the pressure to buy a house, the pressure to pay for children's education and the pressure to give their wives and fiancees a decent life. And they are coping with the pressure. But of all these traits, what has caught the attention of critics is Chinese men's appearance.

Chinese men pay less attention to their looks because they tend to believe in the traditional virtues of diligence, responsibility, devotion to and providing for the family.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

As diligent and devoted as Chinese men


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