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From volleyball to science fiction, these women are showing the positive face of China

All around the world, women are becoming leaders of nations both great and small. China is not yet among them. Or maybe it is, at least partly, considering Taiwan is a part of China and it has a woman president. OK, that’s debatable.

Still, many brilliant and wonderful women from the mainland are helping to put China on the map and to counter widespread negative perceptions of the country, especially in the West. Consider just a few who are in the headlines.

Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui may not be a gold medallist, but her quirky personality and humorous antics have endeared her to people everywhere. What Chinese athlete has ever talked so openly about having her periods and needing a boyfriend? The exuberance she displayed when told she had won the bronze in 100m backstroke was just a delight to watch.

Visionary coach Lang Ping, who led China’s volleyball team to an Olympic gold last week, is a true international spirit. After winning gold as a player at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, she went on to a stellar career as a volleyball coach who had trained the national teams of Italy, Turkey and the US. The irony was that she led the American team to victory over China at the 2008 Olympics.

Volleyball visionary: coach Lang Ping worth her weight in gold – and more

Far from the world of sport, a physics major has won the Hugo Award, a prestigious literary prize in science fiction, for best novelette with Folding Beijing. This came a year after Liu Cixin became the first Chinese writer to win a Hugo Award with his novel The Three-Body Problem. The way Hao Jingfang describes her novel, it sounds more like a description of what’s happing now than in the future.

“I have raised a possibility for the future and how we face the challenges of automated production, technological advances, unemployment and economic stagnation,” she said, adding that people of different social status are separated into different spaces, and low-skilled workers are replaced by robots.

Contemporary China is going through something of a renaissance in science fiction writing, and Hao is a part of it.

What all these women show is their own independence, authenticity and outspokenness. These are qualities that make them individual and appealing. Those are the faces of modern China we want the world to see.