Game, set and match as women take control

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 June, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 June, 1995, 12:00am

IT has not been traditional for Communist Party leaders to reveal their favourite sports. But after 16 years of reform, it may be time for a change.

Tennis is fast becoming the most popular sport among political leaders. Former National People's Congress chairman Wan Li and the vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Li Ruihuan are known to be tennis fans - but according to the China News Service (CNS), many female cadres are learning how to swing their racquets nowadays too.

To prove tennis was no longer a male preserve, the agency yesterday organised a 'soft tennis' competition at the Beijing Wenjin Country Club.

According to CNS, the most senior competitor was Chen Muhua, the vice-chairman of the National People's Congress. Others included Foreign Trade Minister Wu Yi, Chemical Industry Minister Gu Xiulian and General Nie Li, the daughter of Marshal Nie Rongzhen.

Two vice-directors of the United Front Department, Wan Shaofen and Liu Yandong, also took part. Perhaps not to be outdone, the State Science and Technology Commission sent two high-fliers - second daughter of Deng Xiaoping, Deng Nan, and vice-director, Zhu Lilan.

So, who won? Well, in a country like China where seniority is emphasised, it was only natural that 74-year-old Ms Chen should defeat vice-chairman of the All-China Women's Federation, Wang Qicao - even though Ms Wang was widely regarded as the better player.

It should also not be too surprising that Ms Deng - whose father is still the most powerful man in China - should have beaten colleague Ms Zhu in a doubles match with partner Ms Liu.

With Beijing soon to play host to the United Nations' World Conference on Women in September, Beijing may be anxious to give female ministers a more human face.