The Chinese communists were acutely aware of the oppression of women in their society, and were committed to the cause of women’s equality. From the start they were insistent that China’s modernisation could not be complete without the inclusion of women in the public sphere. Like most other state socialist countries, at the time of the setting up of the Chinese state, the ‘woman question’ was debated within the materialist framework set out in Engels’ Family, Private Property and the State. The key feature of this position is that the roots of women’s oppression lie in the denial of property and, through that, access to the public sphere as independent actors. The question of the private/public dichotomy has particular significance in Marxist politics. The division between the two is regarded as signifying the alienation of individuals in society. The obliteration of the private/public dichotomy is one of the goals of communism.
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