To compile a list of the most powerful women in China, I looked for women who are not regularly reported on in the Western press, at least not anymore. I tried to avoid woman who are PR conscious and trying to present themselves as role models for China or Chinese woman. I wanted to tell different stories, at least new stories.
I chose Wei Sun Christianson because she is one woman who successfully competed against hordes of high-profile men. Her discretion and femininity helped her to become China's top foreign banker. I chose Wu Yi because she is one of the greats, and I don't want people to forget about her. I chose Mei Yan because she has discovered her own moral compass, and she did not take the road that is the easiest for her. I chose Wu Changhua because she is totally oblivious to money, which is such a novelty, considering China's mainstream values for the past 30 years. I chose her also for her passion and confidence at her job. I chose Deng Yujiao because she is the reality for most Chinese women. For every Wei Sun Christianson, Wu Yi, Mei Yan, and Wu Changhua, we probably have 10,000 Deng Yujiaos. Let's not forget about them.
As managing director and CEO of Morgan Stanley China, Wei Sun Christianson is known as the woman who gets the deal done in China. She consults some of the most powerful bosses in the world, including Bernard Arnault of LVMH. To her clients, Wei walks on water. Cynics would say, sure, but she's probably single and overworked, with a big bank account and no family. Wrong.
Wu Yi is tiny but powerful. Not because she was vice premier of China. And not because she was China's chief trade negotiator, or because she was named three times to Forbes' most powerful women in the world list, or because when the going gets tough, all the top men of China send Wu to do the dirty work. She's powerful because she is incorruptible, she has stood by her principles, and she has a great sense of humor and even greater sense of humility.
A daughter of the man who built the news censorship system in China, Viacom China CEO Mei Yan decided to try to influence the censors. First she started to tell them stories of cover-ups that went bad; eventually she tried to convince them to allow foreign journalists to report what they see in China. Her meetings with the censors were so successful that she was invited to give regular lectures. Now she's moved on to a new territory: Her new campaign is to encourage original Chinese music through MTV.
As The Climate Group's Greater China director, Wu Changhua is a rare person whose opinion has not only affected Chinese government policy but also corporate behavior in China. She is all about changing attitudes. "We need to make everyone feel we live on the same planet," she said, "and that's just for starters." And in an age in which every Chinese person chases after financial success, Wu is the exception.
Deng Yujiao was an ordinary girl from Hubei Province in central China, a receptionist in a massage parlor in her hometown. However, the events of the night of May 16, 2009, made Deng Yujiao a household name in China and a political embarrassment for the local government. By defending herself against two rapists who turned out to be government officials, she has brought awareness to women all over China.