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Women take a great leap forward

By CNN's Hugh Riminton in Shanghai

Shanghai has one of China's most established social scenes.
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2001: 7.3 percent
2002: 8.0 percent
2003: 9.3 percent
2004: 9.5 percent
2005: 8.0 percent (est.)
Source: IMF

(CNN) -- Women of the world take note: there's a new club on the block.

Female, upwardly mobile Chinese internationals, or "fumchis," consist of a generation of Chinese women born into the best of times.

At a cocktail party thrown for visiting jazz singer Laura Fygi in Shanghai, the fumchis are out in force, and the mood is buoyant.

"If you are under 25, literally you have never had a bad day in your life. Ever since you were born, every day has been a better day than the day before," entrepreneur Yue-Sai Kan says.

"They know there is no limit to what they can accomplish as long as they work very hard," she adds.

Annie Wang, novelist and social commentator, is the ultimate networker on the Shanghai scene.

"People want to take this opportunity to enjoy their womanhood because they have seen their mothers suffer or have sacrificed so much for their children," she says.

"A woman like me -- I want to go to a Western society, I want to be liberated, I want to be able to do the things I want to do!"

For years, Wang wrote a Sex and the City-type column -- the People's Republic of Desire. She found young women torn between wanting a faithful husband, and tasting the new fruits of freedom.

"Some people tell me I want to be wilder than the westerners -- so that shows I am cooler than westerners if I can do things they don't dare to do, and I am even more cutting edge," she says.

Amid industrialists and the oilers of the wheels, the party is full of multi-lingual young women running publishing or marketing businesses, often representing top-flight Western brands.

The guests include former Olympic sprint swimming champion Joey Zhuang, who now heads her own media firm. There is nothing, it seems, standing in her way.

But can it all really be this easy?

This generation of women might have escaped the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, and China's "one-child" policy might have relieved them, whether they like it or not, of endless motherhood.

But this is a cultural revolution all of its own, which brings pressures in its own right.

"China is still a male-dominated country -- you can't deny that. It's still much easier for a man to do business in China than it is for a woman," laments businesswoman Eva Ho.

Wang also has concerns.

"People don't want to talk about politics, people don't want to talk about literature. People just want to talk about very, very practical things -- can I get a good job? Can I get a good car? I worry a little bit about the soul-lessness," she says.

But these concerns aside, in this new, glittering China, it's clear that there is a social and sexual revolution underway -- if not a political one.

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