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“Brainless” Local Policy to Boost Birthrates: Bonus Points for Kids from Bigger Families

Having a second or third baby? Zhezhou County will give you bonus points for that.

Zilan Qian

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As Chinese experts and local authorities across the country are thinking of new ways to encourage couples to have more children in light of China’s dropping birth rates, this latest measure announced by Shanxi’s Zhezhou County has sparked controversy.

Dropping birth rates have been a major concern for Chinese authorities for years now, and in light of the recent Two Sessions and its aftermath, it has become a bigger topic of discussion on Chinese social media.

To encourage young people to marry and have more children, various initiatives have been suggested or implemented, with a particular focus on the role education plays in this matter.

One recent proposal from an expert has been to shorten the education period as a means to promote China’s birth rates. This includes the idea of eliminating the middle school entrance exam to reduce two years of elementary and middle school education to allow young people to start their post-graduate life at an earlier age.

Earlier this month, another measure that also focuses on education in the context of boosting birth rates sparked heated debates on Weibo.

The measure was introduced by the local government of Zezhou County, a county in the southeast of Shanxi province. The idea entails that families of two children or more will receive benefits in education; their second or third child would get ten additional points in their senior high school exams (zhongkao 中考).

The related hashtag, titled “Second or Third Children from Shanxi’s Zezhou County Will Receive an Additional 10 points in the Senior High School Entrance Exam” (#山西泽州二三孩中考将加10分#) received over 120 million views in less than two days.

On Chinese social media, most netizens responded to this proposed measure with indignation, arguing that it violates the basic principle of exam equality.

In response, one popular legal blogger on Weibo called ‘Lawyer Zhuang Zhiming’ (@庄志明律师) published an article titled: “Shanxi’s Zezhou County Giving Families with Two/Three Kids Extra Zhongkao Points – How Did Such a Brainless Policy Come About?” (“山西泽州二、三孩家庭中考加分,如此弱智政策是怎么出台的?”)

In the article, the author vehemently criticized the policy, stating that it goes against the basic spirit of education equality and describing it as a “devilish measure against the times” (“逆时代的魔鬼之操作”).

In addition to being unfair to one-child families, the author argues that the policy also treats the first child of two or three children families unequally since they cannot receive the extra bonus points while their younger siblings can.

Many users on Weibo also agree with this argument, stating that the policy creates a situation where the first-born child is “inherently placed at a disadvantage,” “starting one step behind the others.”

The cover of the official notice from the Zezhou county government regarding their measurements for promoting the balanced development of population. Image from Sina Weibo’s post.

Other netizens also criticized this policy, viewing it as an extreme family planning policy. One Weibo post under the hashtag suggests that this policy is similar to measures taken during the one-child policy era and creates inequality to compel people to realize the state’s birth rate goals.

Another Weibo user stated: “When we were young, our parents were fined for having multiple children, while we watched families with one child or two daughters receive bonus points. Now that we’ve grown up and can’t afford to have more children, we’re watching those with two or three children receive bonus points.”

Some also expressed anger and frustration in the comments sections, saying these kinds of policies make them feel pressured to have children and actually makes them feel like not having kids altogether.

“Just don’t have babies at all,” one person wrote, while another comment said: “If we would treat humans as actual humans, we could avoid strange occurrences like this.”

In mid-March, Sina News reported that the local government responded that the policy is not active yet and is being implemented in “one or two years.”

In addition to the extra points for the senior high school entrance exam, the local authorities have come up with other measures that benefit families with two or three children, including exemption from outpatient registration fees in the county’s public hospitals, an additional sixty days of maternity leave for the third child, 50% off (second child) or no fees (third child) for county public kindergartens, and free after-school childcare services.

Although these local initiatives have drawn a lot of criticism, some people also applaud them.

Phoenix Weekly‘s Weibo account posted about all the measures taken by the local government, and one person replied: “This is the most effective policy I have seen so far. If Shanghai were to implement such measures, the birth rate would increase very quickly.”

Other netizens also suggested that the policy may not be as harmful as some claim it is. In response to concerns about the policy’s impact on education equality, some point out that the extra points are only added if students take the zhongkao for high schools located within the county. They, therefore, suggest the measure could actually decrease competition for urban schools, since there will be no bonus points for those entrance exams.

Another Weibo user trivialized the policy’s impact by suggesting that “there are no good high schools in the county, so [the policy] won’t have much of an influence [on education equality] at all.”

While the policy’s scope is limited to the county level and may not significantly affect the lives of most individuals, most commenters in these online discussions still see it as a challenge to the fundamental values of equality, merit-based education, and individual autonomy over family planning.

Many people doubt the effectiveness of manipulating the education system to boost birth rates and argue that addressing the broader socio-economic context is the only viable solution: “The government’s priority should be to ensure high-quality basic services for children and to maintain these standards. When people feel happy, they may be more willing to have children. Improving the quality of child-rearing and education is more crucial than increasing the quantity of children.”

By Zilan Qian

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Zilan Qian is a China-born undergraduate student at Barnard College majoring in Anthropology. She is interested in exploring different cultural phenomena, loves people-watching, and likes loitering in supermarkets and museums.

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China Local News

Knife-Wielding Woman Goes on Rampage at Guixi Primary School

Shortly after the incident, videos and photos began circulating on WeChat, showing young children covered in blood on the ground.

Manya Koetse

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A woman in Guixi, a county-level city in Jiangxi’s Yingtan, has been taken into custody after stabbing people at a primary school on Monday, May 20, around noon. The incident resulted in at least two fatalities and left ten others injured.

Shortly after the incident, videos and photos began circulating on WeChat, showing young children covered in blood on the ground, victims of the woman’s stabbing rampage at the Mingde Primary School in Guixi’s Wenfang.

The incident immediately attracted significant attention on Weibo, where netizens not only commented on the tragedy of innocent children being involved in such a horrific crime but also on the unusual fact that the suspect is female; as typically, perpetrators of such crimes are male.

Others also questioned why the school security guards were not present to prevent such an incident and how the woman managed to gain access to the school grounds in the first place.

The 45-year-old female suspect is a native of Guixi. It’s reported that she used a paring knife to carry out the stabbing attack on the school premises.

Shortly after the incident, local authorities called on blood donation centers in Guixi to extend their opening hours, and local residents started queuing up to donate blood to help out the victims who are still being treated for their injuries.

Another question that lingers is why the woman would commit such an atrocious crime. People suggest it is bàofù shèhuì (报复社会), a Chinese term that translates to “retaliate against society” or “taking revenge on society.”

Baofu shehui is often cited as a type of criminal motivation for knife-wielding incidents in China, particularly those occurring at schools, where individuals with personal grievances and/or mental health issues commit these extreme crimes. Such incidents have happened multiple times in the past, notably between 2010 and 2012, during a series of elementary school and kindergarten attacks.

Different from these kinds of attacks in Europe or the US, it often involves older perpetrators who are disillusioned, frustrated, and alienated from their communities amid rapidly changing social and economic conditions in China.

But for many netizens, such a possible motivation does not make sense. Some commenters wrote: “Taking revenge on society should never be done by venting one’s anger against children.”

Others wish the worst upon the perpetrator. One popular comment says, “I hope she gets the death penalty, and that the victims’ families get to execute her.”

By Manya Koetse

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

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©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Red Cross Society of China in Bad Light Due to Online Rumors after Gansu Earthquake

Even though the rumors surrounding the Red Cross might be false, the public concerns surrounding charity efforts are real.

Manya Koetse

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A handwarmer for 500 yuan ($70), a tent for 2200 yuan ($308), a blanket for 100 yuan ($14)? An online list detailing items supposedly procured by the Gansu Red Cross for earthquake relief efforts has ignited controversy on Chinese social media in recent days. Although the Red Cross has denied all rumors, the incident underscores public skepticism towards the organization.

After the devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Jishishan (积石山), a county in China’s Gansu Province’s Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, on December 18, Chinese social media platforms were flooded with news related to the disaster. The overnight earthquake killed at least 148 people and left hundreds injured.

News of the earthquake resonated deeply throughout the country, and the ongoing search and rescue operations and relief efforts, hindered by landslides, ruined infrastructure, and freezing temperatures, have attracted major attention online.

While much of the discourse revolves around the goodness of the people contributing to charities and doing all they can to help victims in the affected areas, there is also public distrust surrounding the motives of some charities or helping organizations that might use the disaster as an opportunity to make a profit.

One hotly debated topic revolves around the Red Cross Society of China, after a list surfaced online of items allegedly purchased by the Gansu Red Cross for relief efforts in the aftermath of the Gansu Earthquake.

Image published on Weibo via Red Cross Society of China (@中国红十字会总会).

The procurement list raised controversy due to the high prices of the common items listed, and because of a supposed “management fee” (管理费) of 1.6 million yuan ($224k).

In response, the Red Cross refuted these claims, asserting that they had not issued any such list (#甘肃红十字称没发布任何物资清单#). On December 24, the Gansu Red Cross took to Weibo (@甘肃省红十字会) to clarify that the circulating information was “grossly inaccurate.” They assured the public that all donations would directly aid earthquake relief efforts, without incurring management fees.

The Red Cross statement on Weibo.

Even though the procurement list might be false, the public concerns surrounding charity efforts are real.

“Why does the Red Cross end up in the top trending lists every time?” one commenter wondered: “Their information should be more transparent and timely.”

Others also suggested that merely denying the rumors was not enough, and that they hoped that the Red Cross would provide more details and information to show netizens, of whom many donated money, how their charity money is being spent to help relief efforts in the affected areas in Gansu and Qinghai.

The fact that the Red Cross Weibo post did not allow any commenting did not help: “Why are you afraid to let us openly discuss this?”

 
Red Cross Society of China: Tainted by Suspicion
 

The Red Cross of China, the nation’s largest charitable organization, continues to grapple with a tarnished reputation that partly stems from the 2011 “Guo Meimei Incident.”

Guo Meimei (郭美美), whose real name is Guo Meiling, became an infamous internet celebrity in the summer of 2011 after flaunting her excessive wealth online whilst claiming to work as a “commercial general manager” for the Red Cross Society of China.

The issue severely eroded the society’s credibility, which has been designated by the government as the central public donation organization during times of disasters (Cheng 2016). From luxury handbags to sports cars, the 19-year-old Guo showed off her money on Weibo, and quickly went viral on various message boards as people were angered over corruption and potential misuse of charity money.

Guo Meimei

Despite efforts by the Red Cross Society to debunk these rumors and distance itself from Guo, speculations persisted. Many speculated about Guo’s potential ties to the organization, even if she did not officially work there. As highlighted by Cheng (2016), the public’s negative sentiment toward the Red Cross triggered “a chain of credibility crises” and even spread to other charitable groups in China.

During the 2020 Wuhan Covid outbreak, the Red Cross faced scrutiny for allegedly stockpiling public donations of medical supplies in warehouses rather than promptly distributing them to frontline medical personnel facing shortages.

The current allegations against the Red Cross of China in the aftermath of the Gansu Earthquake also echo other past controversies, such as the one they dealt with after the 2008 Sichuan quake. Red Cross officials were then also accused of misusing donations by purchasing needlessly expensive tents and vehicles.

 
Donations for the ‘Underdog’: The Han Hong Foundation
 

The growing public distrust towards the Red Cross has arguably paved the way for other Chinese charities to gain prominence. A prime example is the Han Hong Love Charity Foundation (韩红爱心慈善基金会), established in 2012 by renowned Chinese folk singer Han Hong (韩红, 1971).

Although Han Hong has been engaged in charity for many years, during which she invested a lot of her own money, the charity she established became more known after the Han Hong Love Charity Foundation was committed to aid efforts during the Wuhan Covid outbreak in 2020 and the Henan floods in 2021.

Han Hong (center), picture via Xiaohongshu fan of Han Hong.

After the earthquake in Gansu on December 18th, Han Hong’s organization immediately organized rescue teams and provided people in the affected areas with clothes and (medical) supplies. Hang Hong was able to rake in millions thanks to her reputation of being compassionate and altruistic, as well as through her strong network in China’s entertainment industry, leading numerous Chinese celebrities to support her relief efforts.

But Han Hong’s organization is also affected by the public distrust surrounding charity in China. On December 23, it was rumored that her Charity Foundation was officially asked to leave the disaster area as well as to hand over a portion of their donations.

The foundation refuted these claims by issuing a statement on December 25 (#韩红基金会辟谣#).

Statement by Han Hong Love Charity Foundation refuting rumors that their charity work was hindered by officials.

In the public view, there seems to be a big difference between perceptions of large entities like the Red Cross and other ‘official’ charitable organizations versus smaller, more independent initiatives like the Han Hong foundation, which operates as a private charitable entity.

Reflecting on the rumors surrounding both the Red Cross and Han Hong’s foundation, one Weibo commenter noted: “These rumors come into existence because so many of these so-called charitable foundations actually treat charity as their business. And so, they become ‘competitors.’”

Meanwhile, Han Hong’s organization stresses that it operates under the guidance and oversight of the party and government, and only provide emergency support through their support.

In online discussions on the power of the Red Cross versus Han Hong’s organization, some commenters suggest that it is time for the government and authorities to reflect on why a private organization would be more trusted than the Red Cross, a government organized NGO.

One Weibo commenter wrote: “What Han Hong does is true charity instead of business.” Another person replied: “The biggest disaster here is actually the erosion of public trust.”

By Manya Koetse

References

Cheng, Yang. 2016. “Social Media Keep Buzzing! A Test of Contingency Theory in China’s Red Cross Credibility Crisis.” International Journal of Communication, June 2016: pp. 3241+.

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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