After its critical acclaim last year with the documentary MAKERS: Women Who Make America, AOL has taken its storytelling brand to China to highlight women whose accomplishments have shattered expectations and serve as an inspiration to their peers. The selection process was overseen in part by Yang Lan, a broadcast journalist often dubbed the “Oprah of China.”
First female sexologist in China
After studying at the University of Pittsburgh, Li became fascinated by the widely available research on American sexual mores, completely absent in her native China. Her book, Their World: a Study of Homosexuality in China, proved iconoclastic for the country.
Known for films like Raise the Red Lantern and Memoirs of a Geisha, Gong has starred in numerous Chinese films that have won her awards from the Berlin International Film Festival to Cannes. She was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2000.
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
After a string of government jobs, Fu became China’s ambassador to the Philippines in 1998, then to Australia in 2003, then to the U.K. in 2007. She’s been praised for her expert handling of the media after western pushback against China’s successful bid to host the Olympics.
First public interest lawyer in China
In 1995, Guo was inspired at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women by Hillary Clinton’s now-famous maxim: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Not long after, she founded a women’s legal aid NGO, which subsequently earned her an award from Clinton as a Woman of Courage.
Short-track speed skating coach
Li won a silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics and later went on to coach Apolo Ohno to his gold medal win in the 2006 Winter Olympics. She has coached the Chinese national team through the last two Olympic seasons.
The editor-in-chief of Caixin Media Company has made a name for herself through hard-hitting journalism—a particularly challenging accomplishment in China. She famously reported on corruption in the financial industry, and has been included on the TIME 100.
Chairman and president, Gree Electric
Dong rose through the ranks at Gree Electric, first selling air conditioners then overseeing the sales team. She was appointed director of the department in 1994 and increases sales by a factor of seven. This accomplishment paved the way for her to eventually take the top job at the company.
A dancer from rural China, Yang studied the dance cultures of various Chinese minorities as a young woman. Committed to bringing these traditions to the wider public, she raised money to create and perform her first piece, “Spirit of the Peacock” in the 1980s, and went on to direct, choreograph and perform in blockbuster dance shows throughout China, Europe and the U.S.
Laura Cha Shin May-lung
Former vice-chair of the China Securities Regulatory Commission
After a successful career as a lawyer, first in California then in Hong Kong, she joined the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and eventually held the position of Deputy Chairman. She then moved on to be vice chair of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, becoming the first non-mainlander in the role.
Novelist and screenwriter
Yan is known in the U.S. for books like The Banquet Bug and The Lost Daughter of Happiness. Many of her novels have been adapted for films like The Flowers of War, and her stories are highly acclaimed in China.