18th Party Congress

Female Fujian party chief Sun Chunlan popular

Only the third woman to hold such a position, Sun Chunlan has earned wide popularity

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 8:01am

Women hold up half the sky, as the traditional saying goes, but in Chinese politics they account for only a slice of it.

So when Sun Chunlan, former head of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, was appointed as Communist Party secretary of Fujian three years ago - only the third women to hold a provincial-level party-secretary position - observers hailed the decision as an affirmation that women would receive more promotions in the near future.

Local officials and academics said Sun proved herself more than qualified for the job thanks to her extensive connections, solid knowledge about Taiwanese enterprises and rich background in commerce that brought investment opportunities to the province.

"She is very well connected and on good terms with enterprises and Beijing," said Lin Qing, professor of economics at Fujian Normal University.

"She doesn't talk empty rhetoric and is very down-to-earth during meetings."

Another source in the provincial government said Fujian had not been developed to its full potential in the past several decades because it was geographically close to Taiwan. If war broke out with Taiwan, Fujian would turn into a battleground.

The province was heavily dependent on donations and investment from overseas Chinese with roots in Fujian. "Now the central government is expecting Sun, with her connections with state-owned enterprises, to attract more investment from such companies," the official said. "And Sun has lived up to those expectations."

The official said Sun was very friendly, charismatic and popular among residents.

Now 62, the Hebei native began as a worker at Anshan Clock and Watch Factory in Liaoning in 1974 after graduating from a vocational school. After a spell in Anshan administration in charge of textiles, Sun spent 14 years as a senior official in another textile company in Anshan. She was later appointed head of the city's women's federation, and then head of the province's women's federation and trade union.

Sun became deputy party secretary of the province in 1997 and four years later party secretary of Dalian .

In 2005 Sun was moved to Beijing to become deputy chief of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. During her time in office, Sun was recognised for advancing the work of establishing trade unions in foreign-, Hong Kong- or Taiwan-invested companies to solve disputes between employees and employers.

In 2008 Foxconn, the biggest Taiwanese-invested company in Shenzhen, established a workers' union and the next year 12 Taiwanese workers, for the first time in 30 years of Taiwan investment in the mainland, joined the mainland workers' union.

When Li Jianhua, then deputy of the Communist Party's organisation department, made the announcement of Sun's appointment as Fujian party secretary in 2001, he spoke highly of her. Sun's political stance was firm and she had a good command of policy theories, he said.

"A visionary with rich experience in leadership and brave in exploiting frontiers, Sun has strong leadership skills and the ability to control the overall situation. She is practical and decisive and is highly capable of handling complicated and tough challenges," Li said.

"She is also decent and fair, sticking to principles."

Local media reported that Sun went to Xiamen and Fuzhou on the third day of taking office, visiting Taiwanese-invested businesses in the province and charming Taiwanese businessmen.

Sun has pledged that provincial gross domestic product, GDP per capita and total fiscal income will double by 2016, with regional GDP per capita surpassing the average level of the east and overall competitiveness considerably increased.