From One-Child Policy to Two-Child Policy: Weibo Responds


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The expected changes in China’s one-child policy have created a buzz on social media and society at large. Although many netizens applaud the news that Chinese parents can soon have two children, some are more pessimistic. “The two-child policy comes too late,” some experts say.

According to China Business News (第一财经日报), China is considering changing its one-child policy (独生子女政策) to a ‘two-child policy’ (二孩政策). It could be implemented as soon as the end of the year “if everything goes well” – a government source told China Business Review on July 22.

China initiated the one child-policy in 1979 with an aim to control the nation’s rapid population growth. The policy has been blamed for innumerable cases of forced abortions and mandatory sterilizations over the past 35 years.

The one-child policy has not been implemented in all cases. China’s ethnic minorities or couples in rural areas are allowed to have more than one child if their firstborn is a girl. Since 2013, in response to the declining population growth, many couples are entitled to have a second child if one of the parents is also an only child (单独二孩). But this change turned out not to be effective, as China’s birth rate has remained low, and society is continuously ageing. The working-age population has dropped for three years in a row according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

With the new policy, which the National Family Planning Council is evaluating and promoting, the two-child policy would be the new national standard (全面二孩), and all Chinese couples would be permitted to have two children.

“Many couples actually do not want to have more than one child.”

The news created a buzz of attention in social media. On Sina Weibo, the hot topic of the “two-child policy” has been viewed over 10 million times with nearly 23,000 comments as of writing.

User ‘Goblin Gucci‘ supports the overall openness of the two-child policy. “I’m absolutely in favor of the two-child policy. As the only child in the family, kids are spoiled and selfish. Two kids are perfect as they can play together and support each other. I think growing up with a sibling would make a happy childhood.”

A large number of Weibo users also questions if the new policy can help relieve the pressure of ageing population in China. A user named ‘80 percent new man‘ says there’s no hope that the ‘two-child policy’ could change the current ageing situation. “The richer the society is, fewer people desire to have kids. Raising kids in China is really expensive, and the one-child policy generation is under a lot of pressure to take care of their parents. I’m afraid many couples actually do not want to have more than one child.”

“This policy is already coming too late.”

Comments also showed significant concerns about the economic pressures of having a second child. Zhang Ming, professor of politics at Renmin University of China (中国人民大学) also shares his thoughts on Weibo: “It’s already too late to open the new policy, as not many couples would consider having a second child. The one-child policy has made child-rearing costs so high that many parents cannot afford a second child anymore.”

User ‘ENOVAS_Erika‘ further explains: “In China, many grandparents help take care of their grandchild. But if the grandparents cannot help raise the second child, one of the parents (usually the wife) will have to quit her job and become stay-at-home mum. Not many fathers in China are able to carry the financial burden for the family, including the grandparents, in-laws, two kids and wife. We need more financial support from the government, so that we can actually consider having a second child.”

“Let’s first talk about education, food safety, property prices, the pension system and healthcare, before we talk about introducing the two-child policy.”

This Weibo user is not the only one who feels this way. Many other users urge the government to take action to make it easier for those people who do want to have a second child. User ‘Yuebo007‘ says the new policy will be meaningless unless the government also increases social benefits. “The main priority is to solve the problems concerning education, food safety, commodity prices, property prices, the pension system and healthcare. Then we can talk about the two-child policy.”

Critique aside, going from the one-child to two-child policy is also regarded as a step forward in personal freedom and individual rights by many. “Many people complain that they can’t afford a second child because they do not receive enough support or welfare from the government, although some of them do want to have more kids,” posts user ‘Silent Minisa‘: “I see it as personal freedom. We will have the right and the option to have two children soon – if you are financially capable, then have two. If not, just stick with one child. The government is not forcing you to have two kids.”

By Yiying Fan

Featured Image: “计划生育好处多”: “Family Planning Has Many Advantages”, produced by the Family Planning Leadership Office of Jilin Province, circa 1975.
Source: US National Library of Medicine.

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.

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“Divorced Yet?” – Why China Has a Soaring Divorce Rate


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The divorce rate in China increased to 3.9 percent over the last year, with 3.63 million couples bringing their marriage to an end, according to the latest data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The rate has been rising for twelve consecutive years since 2003. “Have you divorced today?” (今天你离了吗) has recently become a common joke between Chinese people. While some blame China’s social media, others say the reasons for the soaring divorce rates can be found elsewhere.

In its Social Service Development Statistical Bulletin, the Chinese government recently reported that the national divorce rate soared to 2.67 percent in 2014, compared to 1.05 percent in 2003, and 0.4 percent in 1985. The renowned Chinese magazine Banyuetan (半月谈) interviewed couples about their reasons for divorce in June, concluding that the mass adoption of social media across China is mostly responsible for the rising divorce rate in China. A lot of couples think that social media has turned them away from each other.

The report also stated that Chinese social media apps such as Weixin (微信, WeChat) and Momo (陌陌, Chinese ‘Tinder’) have made it easier to reach out to people, which has messed up a lot of marriages.

On Sina Weibo, over a dozen of media, including People’s Daily (人民日报) and Global Times (环球时报), recently took the topic online to initiate a discussion amongst netizens on whether social media is the killer of marriages in China.

“Social media have made having an affair so easy.”

User AkiraHunter commented: “It’s really not easy to maintain a relationship or a marriage. In my opinion, social media is a major problem. WeChat, Momo and Century Love (世纪佳缘) have become key tools when it comes to hooking up. Social media have made having an affair so easy.”

Other users, however, do not believe that social media are the biggest reason to trigger divorce. Some think that the higher divorce rate can be explained by the social progress and growing gender equality in China.

“I don’t think social media are to be blamed for the high divorce rate. It’s rather just a medium for expressing human thoughts and desires,” says user Night of Anhui Sound: “The divorce rate in China would have kept rising without the existence of social media too, as society is making more progress and genders are more equal. Women now know how to protect themselves in cases of domestic violence or extramarital affairs.”

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User Arale1 added: “We used to think that divorce is a shame for women. A lot of Chinese women put up with a dead marriage for the sake of their children, and because they needed financial support from their husbands. But nowadays, women don’t really need men to support them, as many women start to make more money than men. We have realized that we shouldn’t discommode ourselves anymore. Getting divorced is not the end of the world. On the contrary: it could be the beginning of a new happy life.”

“Nearly 40% of marriages in Beijing end in divorce.”

It’s worth noting that the comments above only apply to women in urban areas, where the divorce rate is much higher than in rural China. Nearly 40 percent of marriages in Beijing end in divorce – a remarkable peak compared to the national divorce rate of 2.67 percent.

Chinese women in big cities and urban regions now have more opportunities for higher education leading to well-paid jobs, which makes them financially independent. Young women in China don’t need to rely on their husband to support them anymore. Thus, money is no long the reason for not getting a divorce.

In rural areas, however, people are still not that tolerant of divorce. Many women are forced to stay in a broken marriage in order not to ruin their families’ reputation. It would also be more difficult for a divorced woman in rural China to find another man who is willing to marry her.

Another factor that cannot be neglected in this issue, is the China’s one child policy (独生子女政策). The post-1980s generation (80后) has been raised as an only child in the family, without having a siblings to interact with. This so-called “me generation” is often described as being selfish, impulsive and unwilling to compromise. Their parents urge them to get married, and then interfere with their marriages. The combination of these factors seems to be a major contributor to the higher divorce rate. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, of all couples filing for divorce in 2014, those born in the 80s had the highest divorce rate. “Lightning divorce” (闪婚闪离) has specifically been a trend among this ‘me generation’.

“We didn’t want to compromise, so we just got divorced.”

Unlike the dating culture in most western countries, Chinese couples usually do not live together before they decide to tie the knot. Typically, they date for a year or two – going to the movies, having dinner, occasionally having sex in a hotel room, or taking a few short trips together. Then the parents start to pressure them to get married. Some young women choose to get married in order not to become ‘leftover women‘ (剩女).

“Parents and other relatives won’t give you enough time to figure out with whom or when you want to be married. They believe it’s time to do it when you reach certain age. They pressure you so hard! We got married shortly after dating, and then realized we don’t even share the same values in life. As the only child in the family, no one wanted to compromise, so we just got divorced,” confesses Weibo user Kianase.

“Getting divorced for two dollars.”

In addition to the above reasons, the easy procedure and low cost of getting divorced in China also cause rising divorce rates. Before 2003, a reference from either the employer or a community leader was required for applying for a divorce. Many couples would not consider divorce due to the humiliating process. But now the rules have changed, and this is no longer needed. Unlike couples in other countries that are required to separate for a period of time before they can legally file for divorce, separation is not required in China. Couples can quickly, easily, and privately file for divorce. The divorce fee is less than two dollars and even free of charge in some cities.

However, these procedures are, again, changing. Some local civil affair departments have just launched the new policy of “limited numbers of divorce” (限号离婚), in hopes of decreasing impulsive divorces. Citizens in Guangzhou posted on Sina Weibo that they have to wait for at least a month to file for divorce.

The new policy finds online support. As the user Yefuping says: “Some government working efficiencies should be improved, while others should be slowed down. The speed of processing divorce should definitely be reduced, so that couples have some time to think twice before they sign the papers.”

By Yiying Fan

Images by Manya Koetse

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.

Gay Pride: Toronto vs Shanghai


The 35th annual Toronto Pride Parade kicked off on June 28 through the city’s downtown core, with thousands showing up to celebrate despite the rainy weather. The parade started at Church and Bloor Street, before making its way down to Yonge-Dandus Square on Yonge Street.

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Attending the gay pride parade was one of the major reasons why I wanted to travel in Toronto in late June. I felt excited and anxious as I had never been to such a parade before. Born and raised in Shanghai, the most gay-friendly city in China, I’m proud to witness that my city has been more open-minded and tolerant about LGBT, however, it’s still not enough.

Shanghai Pride (上海骄傲周) was first held in Shanghai in 2009 and it was the first time a mass LGBT event has ever taken place in Mainland China. Unfortunately, the parade has not been approved by the Chinese authorities yet. Instead, the annual weeklong event is celebrated mostly through films, art exhibitions, panel discussions and theatre productions to raise awareness of issues surrounding homosexuality in China and raise the visibility of the gay community.

Here I was, at the largest pride parade in North America, I saw gay-friendly politicians, local businesses, church groups, fabulous dancers from the gay bars and a lot of weird things including unnecessary nudity.

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Among all, the most moving group in my eyes is Toronto PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It is sad that there are still many parents who do not accept their children’s sexual orientation, thus, seeing a group of loving and supportive parents with signs that says “I love my gay son” and “love is a family value” really touched me deeply.

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Gay pride can mean different things to different people. For some, attending gay pride is a celebration of who they are by expressing equal rights and freedom. For others, gay pride is nothing but a big party for fun. For me, as a straight person, I was glad that I could be involved in such an overwhelming parade to show my support – be gay, be yourself. Meanwhile, I hope that I can be able to write about the first gay pride parade in Shanghai soon.

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Photos taken by Yiying Fan