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Guangdong Official Puts Foot In Mouth, Leaves It There

Posted: 05/14/2014 8:00 am

Nearly four months after a Guangdong government official made a sexist comparison of female PhDs to the shelf life of perishable products, neither the official nor the local CPPCC are showing any remorse.

On January 16 at a panel discussion hosted by the Guangdong Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political advisory body to the government,  a CPPCC member named Luo Biliang said: “If female PhDs did not try to find a husband, it would be quite serious.”

To better illustrate his point, Luo made a comparison. “A woman is a product,” Luo said, “Having tried for more than 20 years to sell yourself, one has failed to strike a deal.”

Luo’s selfless sharing of his wisdom did not stop there. Luo continued by saying, “From a relationship perspective, getting a doctoral degree does not help add value (to a woman); instead, it’s a devaluation.”

CPPCC member Luo Zhiliang (Photo credit:

It’s not surprising Luo’s tawdry, sexist comments have sparked outcries from women PhD holders and women’s rights groups in the country. After all, CPPCC members are trained to make outrageous comments at the annual two sessions, and the public has developed a certain threshold for their absurdities (some of them can be found here in this WSJ article). Nonetheless, a womens’ studies center at South China Normal University and several womens’ rights organisations held press conferences denouncing Luo’s comments as well as citing gender equality-related articles from the country’s constitution and other international regulations. They have also contributed to an angry petition sent to the Guangdong CPPCC.

But what’s surprising here is neither the provincial CPPCC nor Luo have expressed any apology over the comments, and have defined the whole incident as a “misunderstanding,” subtly hinting that the women are making a big fuss over it.

Four months later on May 8, the women’s studies center received a delayed written reply from the CPPCC. The provincial CPPCC said it has reminded Luo to be more aware of the occasions when he makes comments to “avoid making unnecessary misunderstanding,” Guangzhou Daily reported on May 13.

photo credit: Sohu

The CPPCC made a point in the letter by reiterating that the whole incident was a “misunderstanding” and called for an adherence of the “Three Don’ts” policy, namely: “Don’t use a big stick, don’t label people, and don’t pick on others’ faults”, Communist jargon that advocates for greater tolerance.

Luo, on the other hand, was much more resolute in his response. Back in January, he defended himself and told the public that nothing he said was wrong. In fact, he said his comments were made on the theory of the “marriage market”, something that ordinary minds like the female PhDs were obviously too slow to understand. Let’s not forget that Luo is the dean of the Economics and Management Department at the South China Agricultural University in Guangdong, and he certainly did not miss any chance to show off his advanced economics intelligence at any occasion.

Perhaps, it is the people who are angry about the reaction from Luo and the provincial department who should be sorry: sorry for having too many expectations from CPPCC officials; sorry for being too concerned about the country’s gender equality; and sorry for not showing “greater tolerance” over a sexist comment.

Home page photo credit: Sohu

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