Jul 10, 2023, 1:09pm EDT
politicsEast Asia

What to know: Chinese women economists blasted for meeting Secretary Yellen

Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

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The News

A group of six Chinese women who met U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for lunch in Beijing were labeled as traitors and spies by online nationalists.

The names of the women were not made public, but a photograph posted on Weibo identified some of the high-profile attendees.

We’ve collated the significant responses to the gathering.

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  • Liu Qian, the managing director for the Economist Group’s Greater China branch, posted a photo of her and Yellen on Twitter and Weibo, writing that the U.S. official was “highly intellectual and incredibly gracious –– an inspirational role model.” In response, online nationalists called her an “American spy”. One user also said that the select few women invited to meet Yellen were among the elite and “have not worked in factories.”
  • In a now-deleted exchange on Weibo, one user asked Folding Beijing author Hao Jingfang why she met with the treasury secretary, to which Hao responded: “Because Yellen is the friendliest American official, she’s always dedicated to developing friendly China-US relations.”
  • Shen Yi, a professor of international politics, speculated that the women likely had to offer Yellen something in return during the closed door meeting. “There’s no such thing as a free meal,” he said on Weibo, “They’ll need to deliver KPI (key performance indicators) in exchange.”
  • In China, only 11 women have been selected for the country’s top governing body of 205 members, and no woman has ever been chosen to join the Politburo Standing Committee –– the Chinese Communist Party’s most powerful body. The party has also continued to promote conservative ideas about women’s roles in society ––dishing out incentives to persuade more women to have children amid the country’s record-low birth rate. Increasingly, however, women are vocalizing their frustrations with the party’s patriarchal values, and have taken to social media to stand up against repression.