“Do not disturb guide dogs,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV posted on Sina Weibo on October 15. Raising awareness of service dog etiquette, the news outlet shared several infographics and warned people not to feed guide dogs or deny them entrance.
“Do not call out to guide dogs,” CCTV writes: “They are at work. Do not touch or feed service dogs or guide dogs for the blind. They are not pets. They’re working dogs who have gone through strict training. Please don’t distract them.”
People’s Daily also paid attention to service dogs in a post on October 15 in celebration of World Sight Day, honoring the tough job guide dogs do.
Getting a guide dog is simply unattainable for many people in China.
As of May 2015, service dogs are accepted in Beijing’s public transport. But since the phenomenon of guide dogs (导盲犬) is relatively new to China, general knowledge on service dog etiquette is often lacking.
The world’s first guide dog training center started in 1817 in Vienna. Guide dogs became internationally recognized after the First World War, when dogs assisted veterans who had lost their vision during the war.
But China severely lags behind when it comes to service dogs for the (visually) handicapped. Not only are there very few guide dogs, the lack of general understanding of their role has also hampered their public acceptance.
In 2014, Netease published an article about China’s lack of guide dogs. While mainland China has around 17 million people with a visual handicap, there are only 67 official guide dogs. In the capital of Beijing, there are currently 10 registered guide dogs. The southern province of Yunnan, that has a population of nearly 46 million people, recently welcomed its very first guide dog.
Mainland China has only one national training center for service dogs. China’s Guide Dog Training Center (中国导盲犬大连培训基地), located in Dalian, was established in 2004 and was officially approved by the China Disabled Persons Federation (中国残疾人联合会) in 2006.
The center has 12 dog trainers, and currently holds a total of 54 service dogs in training according to the official website. About 40% of these dog do not pass the strict tests to qualify as a guide dog. The center provides its guide dogs to (visually) handicapped people free of charge.
The training of guide dogs, that requires about 6 to 8 months of intensive and consistent exercise, is a costly affair: ±120,000-150,000 RMB (±18,000-22,000 US$) per year of training. The government has no official policy on guide dogs for the blind, and there is limited funding available.
If handicapped people apply for a guide dog, they personally need to come to Dalian to train with the dog for a period of time. With many people living far from Dalian and not having the financial means to make the journey, getting a guide dog is simply unattainable for many handicapped people in China.
“No matter how many times we explained that Jenny is a guide dog, he was determined not to let us stay.”
One person who has done much for increasing awareness on guide dogs in China is Chen Yan (陈燕). Chen is a successful blind female entrepreneur who has become a public figure together with her guide dog Jenny.
She is an active social media user, sharing many stories about the everyday life and struggles of her and her guide dog on her Weibo account. She frequently posts about public places denying her entrance because of her service dog.
Chen received much support when she shared how a Beijing subway employee would not allow her entrance to the public transport system for having her dog with her. It was the 12th time she was refused entrance to the subway before the new May 2015 law on guide dogs in public transport was implemented.
She recently also shared how guards of a public park in Nanjing denied her access to the premises, and how a restaurant manager would not allow her and Jenny to have dinner at his establishment. She wrote: “No matter how many times we explained to him that Jenny is a guide dog, he said his customers would complain and he was determined not to let us stay.”
On Weibo, many netizens express their appreciation of guide dogs. “I wished nobody would refuse guide dogs,” one netizen writes: “They are the eyes for blind people, and should be welcomed by everyone.”
“Guide dogs sacrifice so much to be able to do the work they do.”
It is clear that there has been increased (social) media attention for guide dogs in China over the past year. The story of a blind man from Beijing whose guide dog was stolen made headlines in February of 2016.
It especially became a big topic when the dog was again safely returned with a sorry note shortly after its abduction.
Weibo’s love for guide dogs also shows by the many accounts dedicated to them. One guide dog named Candie even has her own account on Weibo.
According to her bio, Candie is the first internationally qualified guide dog of China. With over 384,000 followers, Candie informs people of the kind of work service dogs do.
“Guide dogs sacrifice so much to be able to do the work they do,” one netizen says: “Why on earth would someone refuse them?”
Other Weibo users agree: “They are little heroes. We should acknowledge their importance and treat them well.”
Note: Want to contribute to the China Guide Dog Training Center? Their official website has an online charity shop and also a donation page (bank account number on bottom of page). [What’s on Weibo is not affiliated with the China Guide Dog Training Center in any way.]
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coca Cola Introduces “Ocean Plastic Bottles” to Combat Marine Waste Problem
Coca Cola’s innovative ocean plastic bottles have become top trending on Weibo.
As Coca Cola introduced the world’s first bottles made from recycled ocean plastic waste this week, the topic has risen to the top trending on China’s Sina Weibo.
As reported by Business Insider, Coca Cola has released 300 sample bottles showing the potential of its new technology that is able to transform lower-grade recycables into high-quality food packages.
The Coca Cola bottles were produced using 25% recycled marine waste, collected by volunteers and fishermen during 84 beach cleanups in Spain and Portugal, the report says, with the company’s long-term goal being to have all its plastic bottles be made from 50% recycled plastics by 2030.
Coca Cola will start to use more recycled plastic for its bottles from 2020 on.
With the topic now having reached 140 million views on Weibo, many people are discussing the issue. The majority of commenters applaud the environment-friendly initiative, but there are also some who say they fear the bottles would somehow contain “more pollutants” or start to “taste like the ocean.”
Others write they do not necessarily want to drink Coca Cola, but would like to obtain one of their ‘ocean plastic’ bottles as a collector’s item.
The Chinese news reports about the new Coca Cola initiative raise awareness on the problems of how plastic waste in oceans jeopardizes marine life.
“Environmental problems require immediate action,” one Weibo users writes: “A good company will take on the responsibility to do something.”
Some 200 billion plastic bottles are sold in China every year – many of them are already being recycled. Coca Cola, however, will reportedly be the world’s first company to use ocean plastic waste for its bottles.
Coca Cola is an important player in the Chinese beverage market; the company has introduced more than 60 products under 20 brands within mainland China.
By Manya Koetse
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Over a Third of China’s Babies Are Delivered via C-Section – The National Health Commission Wants to Change That
Fear of pain is a major reason for nonmedical cesarian deliveries on maternal request.
In 2018 the percentage of deliveries by cesarean was 36.7% in mainland China, according to the latest Report on Women’s & Children’s Health (中国妇幼健康事业发展报告) that was launched by the National Health Commission on May 27.
This means that together with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil, Egypt, and Turkey, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) now has the highest C-section rates in the world.
A World Health Organization report from 2010 estimated that 46% of Chinese babies were delivered via C-section. In 2017, another study found that this percentage was incorrect, although some urban and wealthier regions in China, such as Shanghai, did see C-section (CS) rates as a high as 68% (Black & Bhattacharya 2018, 1; McNeil 2017).
China’s CS rates have recently become a hot topic in Chinese newspapers and on social media. On May 27, the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China held a Beijing news conference in which Qin Geng (秦耕), the director, announced that more actions will be taken to encourage natural childbirth among Chinese women.
These actions will, among others, include stricter regulation of cesarian section operations and the provision of more support and pain relief for laboring women, as well as a higher hospital income for natural births. The National Health Comission hopes to significantly reduce the number of unneccesssary C-sections without medical indication in this way (Beijing News 2019; Caijing 2019).
Since 1985, the international healthcare community has considered 10-15% to be “the ideal rate” for C-sections, of which the highest percentage are those CS deliveries with medical indications that can actually save the lives of mothers and babies.
Although the worldwide rates for CS deliveries have increased throughout the years, there is no evidence for the benefits of nonmedically indicated C-sections for women or children, according to the World Health Organization.
This is not the first time Chinese authorities try to combat the country’s high CS rates. After reports by the World Health Organization from 2010 and 2015 pointing out the potential hazards of unnecessary C-sections, there have been various state efforts to reduce the number of nonmedical cesarian surgeries.
Besides the introduction of free prenatal education classes, these efforts included monitoring public hospital CS rates and removing bonuses or cutting portions of a hospital’s income once their CS rates reached a certain threshold (e.g. 40%) (Wang 2017, 3). These government initiatives seem to have had effect: the country’s C-section growth rates have slowed down, but were not decreasing yet.
Since the Chinese government announced an end to its one-child policy in 2015, lowering cesarean sections rates has become a more urgent matter, as Chinese couples are now allowed to have a second child.
Although various studies from mainland China and beyond challenge the idea that nonmedical C-sections are less ‘safe’ than vaginal births for single deliveries, this risk changes when a woman who previously had a CS section plans another pregnancy: multiple cesarean sections are associated with additional risks including CS scar rupture and abnormal placental invasion (Biler et al 2017, 1074; Black & Bhattacharya 2018, 2; Liu et al 2015, 817).
Why So Many C-sections in China?
But why does China have such a high cesarian delivery rate at all? Since the early 1990s, mainland China saw a more dramatic rise in CS rates than, for example, the USA; from less than 10% (with only 3.4% in 1988), China went to one of the highest in the world (Hellerstein 2011; Wolf 2018, 13).
The answer to why this is, is not so straightforward and relates to socio-economic changes as well as cultural factors that come into play.
One reason is that there is a general belief in the ‘safety’ of cesarian births that influence women’s choices for a (nonmedical and planned) C-section (Black & Bhattacharya 2017, 2).
An insightful study into this matter is that of researcher Eileen Wang (2017), who found that anxiety about giving birth and fear of pain is also a major reason for nonmedical cesarian deliveries on maternal request, especially considering that only a minority of Chinese women are given any form of pain relief during labor. Besides traditional concepts, this is also because China faces a shortage of anesthetists and because obstetricians are not always well-informed to prescribe other forms of pain medication (2017, 5).
As noted by Wang, epidurals are denied to laboring women not just because anesthesiologists are too busy, but also because of various other factors: different from a scheduled C-section on their agenda, they are not always available during nighttimes and in weekends to administer anesthesia to women in labor, do not have the time to monitor a patient for hours during labor (whereas a cesarean could be done in an hour), or were not even trained to administer epidurals (2017, 5).
According to Wang, the concerns about labor pain result in more requests for C-sections, both before and during labor. With relatively low awareness and availability of labor pain relief methods many Chinese women simply opt for a C-section as a way to control their pain.
But there are also other factors that contribute to the relatively high rate of women requesting C-sections for nonmedical reasons. One of them is the importance placed in the astrological calendar: having a baby on that one ‘lucky day’ or within that ‘lucky year’ is considered enough reason to plan a cesarian birth for many Chinese families.
In early 2015, ahead of the Chinese New Year, many women rushed to the hospital to make sure their baby was born in the Year of the Horse (2014) as the Year of the Goat (2015) was coming up. There is an old Chinese saying that nine out of ten people born in the Year of the Goat are incomplete and will suffer from great misfortune throughout their life (“十羊九不全”).
Another factor that leads to more cesareans on maternal request relates to the existing concerns among women that vaginal delivery will affect their figure or sex life (Wang 2017, 2).
Responses on Chinese Social Media
Since the Beijing news conference of May 27, the hashtag “Reducing Unnecessary Cesarean Section Surgery” (#减少非必需剖宫产手术#) has taken off on Chinese social media.
“What do you call ‘unnecessary cesarian’?” one of the most popular comments said: “Isn’t it that so many women in labor choose to have a C-section because natural childbirth is too painful?”
Other commenters also called for a normalization of pain relief in labor, saying that the high percentage of C-sections lies in the fact that Chinese women lack access to “wútòng fēnmiǎn” (无痛分娩) or “painless birth,” meaning vaginal delivery with pain relief.
Some Weibo users also stress that women should have the freedom of choice on how they wish to give birth, saying: “C-section or natural should be my own choice” and “If you leave me no choice I might as well not give birth at all.”
Multiple commenters write: “The lower the C-section rate, the higher the suicides,” referring to an incident that occurred in Shaanxi in 2017 when a pregnant woman committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of the hospital after she was allegedly denied a CS delivery.
Other Chinese netizens also complain about the fact that it seems to be men who are promoting the new policies to combat the high C-section rates, writing: “Isn’t there a way to have them suffer the pain of labor instead?”
In her study, scholar Eileen Wang also argues that the lack of pain relief is one of the major issues that should be addressed by policymakers who are hoping to reduce the number of C-sections in China. Further improving the childbirth experience by, for example, integrating a midwifery model, is also essential in making natural childbirth more attractive for Chinese women, Wang argues.
For now, many hospitals in China are still offering C-section “packages”: some prices start at RMB 5800 ($840) for a C-section, other hospitals have packages that start from RMB 88,000 ($12,741) including a three-day hospital stay in a private room.
“It’s a pregnant’s woman body, so she should decide how she wants to deliver her baby,” one commenter on Weibo writes: “It should be a woman’s right to decide.”
By Manya Koetse
Biler, A., Ekin, A., Ozcan, A., Inan, A. H., Vural, T., & Toz, E. 2017. “Is It Safe to Have Multiple Repeat Cesarean Sections? A High Volume Tertiary Care Center Experience.” Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences 33(5): 1074–1079.
Black, Mairead & Sohinee Bhattacharya. 2018. “Cesarean Section in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong— A Safe Choice for Women and Clinicians?” PLOS Medicine 15(10): 1-3.
Caijing. 2019. “卫健委：全国剖宫产率为36.7% 积极推广分娩镇痛.” Caijing , May 27 http://economy.caijing.com.cn/20190527/4591594.shtml [5.31.19].
Hellerstein, Susan Celia. 2011. “Cesarean Delivery in China Analysis of Cesarean Deliveries Without Indication.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: 20s.
McNeil, Donald. 2017. “Study Finds Lower, but Still High, Rate of C-Sections in China.” New York Times, Jan 9 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/health/c-section-births-china.html [6.2.19].
Wang, Eileen. 2017. “Requests for Cesarean Deliveries: The Politics of Labor Pain and Pain Relief in Shanghai, China.” Social Science and Medicine (173): 1–8.
WHO. 2015. “WHO statement on caesarean section rates.” World Health Organization, April https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/maternal_perinatal_health/cs-statement/en/ [6.2.19].
Wolf, Jacqueline H. 2018. Cesarean Section – An American History of Risk, Technology, and Consequence. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Featured image by Sohu News.
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