In the last year, China has been experimenting with allowing female sailors to handle more jobs on warships. Previously, women had only served on ship crews as medical personnel or interpreters. Currently, several female sailors are on one the Chinese warships serving in the international anti-piracy patrol off Somalia.
China is using more women in ship crews for the same reason other countries are; there's a shortage of qualified men for many of the increasingly technical jobs. Most navies first allow women handle jobs ashore, but eventually allow them to do the same tasks on ships, and then other jobs that are only found on ships. The Chinese military, and economy in general, has a growing shortage of technical personnel.
In the U.S. Navy, women have only allowed to perform most jobs on combat ships since 1994. Women joined crews of support ships in 1978. Currently about 15 percent of American navy officers and 16 percent of sailors are female. At sea, ship crews average closer to 12 percent women.