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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“Sitting the Month” – a Gift or Torture?


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After Mother’s Day, it is still a hot topic on China’s social media: how could Kate Middleton appear in public, high heels and all, only 10 hours after giving birth? In China, new moms are confined to their beds for weeks after giving birth. This tradition, called ‘sitting the month’, comes with many rules. Amongst them: no showering, no drinking cold water, no leaving the house.

Just like a lot of countries in the world, China celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend, on the second Sunday in May. While the whole nation was preoccupied with buying mum’s gifts, one online picture was still passionately discussed on Sina Weibo: the photo of The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, leaving the hospital and showing up in public looking pretty and rested, only ten hour after giving birth to Princess Charlotte.

According to Chinese tradition, women are expected to rest indoors for a full month after giving birth, which is called “sitting the month” or “zuo yuezi” (坐月子) in Chinese.

Zuo yuezi” can be dated back to Western Han Dynasty (B.C. 202 – A.D.9) and was even mentioned in the 2,000-year-old Book of Changes, or I-Ching (易经). After giving birth, tradition keeps a new mother indoors for the month after the baby is born. The new mother is treated like a queen – waited on hand and foot. She doesn’t need to do anything; not taking care of the baby nor cooking for the family. Every year, millions of Chinese women submit to this practice. Women generally see it as a gift as well as a torture.

No taking showers, no brushing teeth.

During the traditional confinement period, new mothers sit around in pajamas for a month to recover from childbirth. There are a lot of rules, which many new moms are struggling with: no going outside, no stairs, no lifting, no cold drinks, no open windows, no air conditioning in summer or winter, and, inconveniently, no taking showers or brushing teeth. Even when breastfeeding, women lie on their sides instead of holding the baby.

From generation to generation, Chinese women are told if they do not undergo this confinement, they will suffer from health problems later in life. Therefore, Chinese netizens were shocked by Kate’s public appearance in her fancy high heels just ten hours after her delivery.

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One user called “Potty-mouthed Queen” posted on Sina Weibo: “I felt extremely weak and tired after I gave birth to my daughter. There’s no way I could stand and show up like Kate after 10 hours.”

Kate’s public display led to the reflection of Chinese tradition in modern society. Another user, “Lemon”, said: “I’ve been staying in bed for 10 days already and I really hate it. I can’t brush my teeth or take a shower. I’m not allowed to eat raw fruit or vegetables, or drink coffee, cold drinks or even cold water. I understand that these rules are aimed at restoring balance to the new mother’s body after childbirth, but I’ve had enough.”

“Comparing Western women with Chinese women is like comparing apples with oranges”.

Most Chinese still believe that women following the tradition of ‘sitting the month’ later will have less health problems than those who don’t. In addition, Chinese traditions still play an integral role in everyday life, as people tend to respect them and pass them on to their children: “It must make sense since the tradition has passed generation to generation,” said many users on Weibo.

Other netizens pointed out physical differences between Chinese and westerners. “It’s like comparing apples with oranges. We shouldn’t follow what western mothers do as the diet habits and geographical environments are different“, user Zhang Daidai commented on Weibo. According to her, Caucasian women eat a lot of beef and high protein food, making it unnecessary for them to ‘sit’ the month after delivering the baby. However, the user points out, they put on weight easier than most Chinese: “It’s all about the diet habits. Westerners already have more than enough calcium and protein in their body, thus, the loss of calcium and protein during labour doesn’t really affect them. On the contrary, Chinese women generally miss these nutriments in a great amount, so it’s better to endure it for a month and avoid serious health problems in the future.”

The practice of ‘sitting the month’ related to existing ideas about balancing yin and yang. If the yin and yang are balanced in the body, one will not get sick. If they are out of balance, people tend to get ill more easily.

In spite of all the arguments online, the benefits of ‘sitting the month’ are evident for many Chinese women. As one of the new mothers shared: “I was totally against the idea of confinement in childbirth. But after 30 days, I did feel like it helped me recover and the constant headache which always bothered me before delivery is now gone.

Despite the rapid speed of China’s modernization, the long-history practice of ‘sitting the month’ remains popular and treasured. Although the radiant post delivery Kate Middleton fascinated Chinese netizens, it is unlikely that Chinese new mums will step out in their high heels after giving birth any time soon.

Image sources:
The World of Chinese
Huffington Post
Baidu

This article was published on What’s on Weibo.