Never have women athletes made such rapid progress in a wide range of events in such a short time — some two or three years — or improved world records by such remarkable margins. The reasons for the progress of Chinese women athletes are examined in this article. One of the reasons is an absence in China of a number of deep-seated prejudices in regard to sexuality that have been common in western historical develoment — prejudices centred on the notion that sport was a ‘male preserve’.
The major factors that have facilitated Chinese women’s progress in sport have to be sought in various elements intrinsic to Chinese society and shaped by historically-conditioned attitudes to sport and women that differ markedly from those that have formed the dominant values of sport in western society, at least since the time of Ancient Greece.
Insosfar as world-wide women’s sporting attainments are reflecting, reinforcing and sometimes even precipitating processes of social change in the role and status of women, the Chinese women’s example offers exciting prospects for the future of women in all societies, particularly the modernising communities of Asia and Africa.