This is completely my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
There is a stereotype that Chinese women are submissive & passive. A kind of thought that they are quiet and you can sort of “have your way” as a man when dealing with them.
In my experience, this is completely false. I mean, I’m sure every person is different but as a stereotype, I would say it is more untrue than true.
A couple examples:
My colleagues are all (except one) women. And all Chinese. They are some of the strongest women I have come across. Now, I’m not talking about physical strength (i.e. muscles, height, weight, etc.) but even without these physical attributes, they are definitely a group of no-nonsense characters. The women I work with daily are very aggressive when negotiating prices and have no fear when dealing with the men who manage factories, shipments and/or sales. They have a clear mental picture of the goal and stop at nothing to get to that point.
Now it is arguable as to whether this goal is actually attainable and if impromptu change is necessary, whether or not they will be willing to compromise. I guess this depends greatly on the person & the situation.
But I have been pleasantly surprised by their innate ability to fight for what/who they think is right regardless of the “situation”.
Just today I walked into a factory that specializes in making PVC items for export. Before we arrived, we were told that the factory had another client who would take the train with us to our next destination city (宁波－Ningbo). My mental picture was of an older person and my first thought was, “well, if he or she cannot buy a ticket with the same time as the one we already bought, they will be out of luck. We will have to go anyway.”
So we arrived at the factory and to my surprise, the other client was less than 30 and clearly in charge. She was on a mission to take pictures of each and every carton of goods that her client ordered. She also had samples neatly placed across the table taking pictures with what looked like a Samsung version of an IPhone… Was very interesting to see her in action.
Then when the factory manager came over and tried to start casual conversation (flirting), she quickly shut him down and focused again on questions involving business. She went on to ask him for samples of other items that he made in the past and he obliged. Soon, he was following her into the next room to let her pick out the samples she wanted. In about 3 seconds, she completely changed the tide of the conversation and took control. Within 10 minutes, in my mind she went from a female to a (genderless) businessperson. It was a good experience for me.
Then on the way to the train station, when our train was initially set for 3:30pm, she found us all a better train leaving at 3:00. So instead of her needing us and worrying whether or not she would get a ticket on our same train, she was the one who negotiated a better deal for the group. And saved us money in the meantime. I was very impressed!
I feel the need to express the fact that this tenacity doesn’t just take place in business. The idea that Chinese women sit quietly while the men talk loudly is not so true in my experience. I remember being in a sporting goods store when I first arrived in China and this man and woman were checking out together in front of us. He reached for his wallet and found that he did not have enough money to pay the bill. So he asked her to help. She looked at him in a very strange way. My friend and I behind them didn’t really pay attention because we thought it was a normal quarrel between a married couple. In other words, none of our business. In addition, I didn’t speak a word of Chinese at the time, so I didn’t understand what they said. But I knew she wasn’t happy. They paid the bill, pushed the cart forward and with a great burst of energy, she slapped him! Right in the face. We couldn’t believe it. We were in public and I had no idea a woman would be so forward in a “male dominated” society…. But I soon learned that shewas this forward and didn’t care who saw it. My friend and I were astonished. And even more astonished when the guy just walked away. Yeah, he gave her a look, but he dared not make a move. At least not there. Now, I have no idea what happened when they got home, but that quickly dismissed the whole submissive in public idea in my mind.
So is this a male dominated society? I don’t know. I know that the formula is a little different here. Since there is the one (1) child per family policy & right now the ratio is about 1.2 men to every woman, the women have a substantial amount of power to select who and what they want.
I imagine a woman sitting on top of a mountain (behind the scenes) somewhere pulling the strings for everything major that happens or doesn’t happen in this country…. But wait, is that not true for every country??