On Saturday, however, Liu Yandong was appointed one of China’s four new vice premiers - making her not only the most powerful woman in the government, but also one of the most powerful in the world.
Her portfolio has yet to be revealed, but Mrs Liu, 67, will now be responsible for the day-to-day running of a large swathe of the world’s emerging second superpower. Her elevation came among a series of appointments to the top of the Chinese government as Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, president and prime minister, lined up the team that will serve under them as they begin an expected decade in power.
Since Chairman Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, masterminded the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, women have been eyed suspiciously by the Chinese Communist Party. There is only one other woman in China’s 25-strong Politburo, Sun Chunlan.