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China's New Women

So often, we think of China as a monolithic, monochromatic Communist country, the land of Marx and Lenin, reports CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen. But the times, they are a-changin'. Just ask China's new women.

Says Connie Fu: "I think I'm just a very lucky generation because, you know, you can do whatever you want to do."

Connie Fu works for an airline, one of four women in their 20s and 30s we sought out: single, well educated, working. We wondered what it's like for women in this new China. The answer: "This is a very exciting time," says May Zhou, who is as disciplined about exercise as she is about a career. She decided as a child she wanted an American education, and so she got it: an MBA from Rutgers. Now she represents an American company doing business in China, and ballet classes balance out long hours in the office.

She explains, "I feel it's a very elegant type of exercise, and I train my body posture, and I love to be with many ladies who has the same desire to look the best of what they are."

In many ways, Chinese women are now as free to choose jobs and lifestyles as their American counterparts. Oddly enough, it wasn't a feminist who paved the way for Chinese women, but a Communist, and a man, at that.

When Mao's revolution swept China in 1949, he decreed that, under communism, men and women were equal, meaning equal pay, equal jobs. So went the theory, but it took another revolution to really make it happen. It was a revolution called capitalism, and now women who dream of having it all (job, home and family) have that chance.

"I attribute this to the economic development that has taken place in China in the last 20 years or so, especially after the opening door policy," says Jennie Wang, who works for an American company importing carpets. She can switch from speaking Mandarin to English like the rest of us switch TV channels.

Change is being felt across Chinese society. Last year, the marriage rate was down 10 percent from a decade ago. Angelia Li, for instance, is living with her boyfriend. Not so many years ago, in strait-laced China, that would have been impossible. But today, she says, "it's becoming more and more usual in China now. A lot of my friends in Beijing have the same life as I have now."

Which means delaying having kids. This may alarm China's older generation. Don't worry, says Jennie; family will happen. She says, "I think my answer is, everybody will get their turn, and I think my turn will come sooner or later."

They've come of age at a time when China itself is emerging into the world as never before. They don't call themselves crusaders, or world changers, or feminists. They call themselves lucky and happy. Who could ask for more?

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