Chinese woman to travel to outer space. (A young girl in Gansu province, and a rank of all-women soldiers, watched her go.) Even as Ms Liu hurtled skyward, photographs of another young woman, Feng Jianmei, began circulating on China's microblogs. The graphic pictures, taken by her family, show Ms Feng lying on a hospital bed next to the body of her seven-month-old fetus, as she was left after local family-planning officials ordered her doctors to forcibly induce a miscarriage. Though the case sparked widespread outrage, this week there are reports that Ms Feng's husband has disappeared after the couple became the subject of locally orchestrated reprisals.
Ms Liu stands as an example of one of the most significant trends in China today: the emergence of a new generation of women, educated, ambitious and successful, who are playing pivotal roles in the country's economic and social development. Ms Feng's sad fate might remind us that even still they struggle against old-fashioned attitudes and the capriciousness of the state.
Women such as Zhang Xin, Yang Lan, Zhang Lan and Peggy Yu Yu rose from improbable, and sometimes quite humble, backgrounds to become influential and wealthy businesswomen. Their stories of self-made millions have in turn inspired other women to believe that hard work and perseverance—as much as a good marriage—can be a ticket to success. While men still dominate the ranks of the uber-rich, China is remarkable for the number of women who regularly appear on the annual list of China's 400 richest individuals.