Leadership in Public Arenas

Prior to inclusion in the People's Republic of China, local chieftains and aristocracy ruled Na territory. A chieftain paid tribute to the imperial court, and his rule was officially recognized by the central government on the condition that he could show a clear patrilineal claim to his title. Na describe the roles of leadership (chieftain, administrator, soldier, and village security) as being held by men. Religious leadership, also important within the political arena, was also restricted to males.

Currently, within the township, virtually all officials are men, both the elected and appointed, although some villages have elected women as "people's representatives." During the years of collectivization, village- and township-level leaders were appointed or recommended by the Communist Party. Since the reform era (beginning in 1982), villages have gained back some autonomy. Now each village chooses a village head, generally a man from a large respected household. Villagers say that they choose village heads for their farming ability as well as their leadership abilities. The village head is responsible for officially representing the village to the township.

Plans for township events or agricultural innovations may be relayed to the village through the village head, or the village head will call a meeting at which outside representatives can talk to the village. Village heads also announce the beginning of agricultural stages, mobilize workers to help maintain public works, and may mediate village conflict.

Another form of official organization is the village women's representative. The women's representative has primarily dealt with villagers on issues of marriage, birth planning, and child-rearing. There is currently no women's representative in many villages. The women who held the position in the past could not recall actually bringing issues from the village to a higher level, but were active in bringing outside policies to the village. During the Cultural Revolution, the "one husband one wife" policy was introduced to the village through the women's representative. In Yongning, as in much of China, the activities of the women's representatives in the past decade and a half have centered more on the birth planning policy than any other issue. The policy of birth control came to the village through the mediation of these women.

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