China’s ‘New Marriage Law’ (新婚姻法) has become a topic of discussion on Chinese social media over the past few days, where many netizens have started talking about an alleged “Three Child Policy” and a lowering of China’s legal marriage age to 18.
The New Marriage Law was passed in 1950 as one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Mutual consent to marry and a heightened legal age to marry to 18 (for women) and 20 (for men) were among the important points stipulated in this legislation.
In the Marriage Law of 1980, this was again raised to 22 for men and 20 for women to promote population control.
Throughout the years, there have been various legal changes in the Marriage Law or in its interpretation, to deal with emerging marriage and family issues in a rapidly changing Chinese society.
Three Child Policy?
Over the past few days, various Chinese bloggers (e.g. here, here, here) suggest that Chinese authorities are putting forward a 2018 renewed Marriage Law, which includes the alleged proposal of a loosening of the two-child policy towards a ‘three-child policy’ (“放开三胎政策”).
These bloggers and many netizens denounce such a potential measure in saying that an extension from the Two-Child Policy to a ‘Three Child Policy’ would add to the burden of Chinese women.
Such a policy, they argue, might lead to Chinese women facing social expectations to birth a third child. And with supposed longer maternity leaves, they would also face unequal opportunities in the employment market.
When the ‘Two-Child Policy’ was officially announced in 2015 as the new national standard (全面二孩), allowing all Chinese couples to have two children instead of the one-child rule that was the norm since 1979, there were also concerns about the economic and gendered pressures of having a second child.
The end of the One Child Policy relates to the growing societal burdens of China’s aging crisis; many demographers proposed a further liberalization of the Chinese family planning system before.
But according to a Chinese Law site (66law.cn), news about an alleged ‘Three-Child policy’ is all just rumors: “Recently, online rumors about the three-child policy to be implemented in 2018 have grown. We live in a populous country, and if this three-child policy would be implemented, it would only add to the pressure [of this big population],” they write, adding that there is “no truth” to the reports.
The rumors find their root in the parliamentary sessions of March, when, as SupChina notes, a proposal drafted by a deputy named Zhu Lieyu (朱列玉) to the National People’s Congress made headlines for suggesting that a three-child policy might be adopted nationwide.
“If China’s birth rate doesn’t see a rise after a three-child policy, we should consider ending any sort of family-planning policy,” the deputy reportedly told Chinese reporters.
Marriage Age to 18
The idea to lower China’s marriage age from the age of 22 for men and 20 for women to 18 years old is something that has already been proposed since last year.
In 2017, National People’s Congress deputy Huang Xihua (黄细花) called for lowering China’s legal marriage age. At the time, many people on Weibo were not happy about the proposal – with some finding it outright shocking.
Netizens then expressed that they were afraid that such a measure will negatively affect the status of women in Chinese society and increase the nation’s divorce rates. “Won’t this lead to a drop in the percentage of women with a higher education?”, some wondered.
The potential lowering of the legal marriage age, a big trending topic in 2017, is still a source of concern for Chinese netizens now. “This is just a way to make us have more babies!” some say.
“We can’t draft a law based on gossip.”
Despite all talks on social media and blogs, China’s official state media have not released news about any new changes to the legislation yet. “Where is this official launch of the New Marriage Law?”, one female netizen (@澄明居-許振雲) wonders: “We can’t draft a law based on gossip!”
“WeChat accounts are one by one publishing about the New Marriage Law,” another commenter writes: “But there’s nothing here yet – it’s just WeChat users making up their own laws.”
“I actually still hope that we can be open to having three children [in the future],” one female netizen responds: “It will be nice for those who are capable of doing so, and people who like have more children. It’ll also ease the worries on the collapse of the social insurance [system] of those of us who are not having children. Those who want to can have children, and those who do not want to, do not need to. Then we’ll find the middle way in a developing nation.”
Others say such a measure would only add to the pressure of women in China today: “We have 30 million leftover men,” another commenter writes: “The more women’s lives are pressured and the more the value of women’s contribution to family life is neglected, the more females will be afraid to get married.”
Featured image is part of a larger poster that can be viewed on the website https://chineseposters.net/themes/marriage-law.php.
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Single Female Blogger Dreads Parental Pressure, Collects Stories to Highlight Dangers of Rushing into Marriage
A recent initiative by a Weibo blogger aims to prove that nothing good comes from marriage pressure.
It is a recurring topic every year when Chinese New Year is about to start: the pressure China’s bachelors and bachelorettes face when they return home to spend time with their families, who will inevitably ask them when they will settle down and get married.
This pressure is especially real for China’s unmarried daughters; those who are single in their late twenties and early thirties are soon labeled as ‘leftover women’ (剩女 shèngnǚ), which became a catchphrase ever since the Chinese Ministry of Education listed it as one of the newest additions to the Chinese vocabulary in 2007.
The shengnü label is mainly applied to unmarried (urban) women in their late twenties or early thirties who are generally well-educated and goal-oriented, but who came to be associated with ‘leftover food’ because of their single status and long-standing prevailing beliefs about the right age to marry.
One 2015 survey by Chinese dating site ‘Zhenai’ showed that 50% of Chinese men think that women who are still single at the age of 25 are ‘leftovers,’ and many Chinese parents urge their daughters to get married before that happens.
“She returned home to visit her parents, and then committed suicide there by jumping off a building.”
This year, some single ladies, while planning their upcoming trip to their hometowns to celebrate the Spring Festival, are already mentally preparing for the nagging questions they will be confronted with once they come home.
One of them is the Chinese blogger nicknamed ‘Little Deer-Loving Forest’ (@爱麋鹿的小森林), who recently asked her followers for help in convincing her relatives that nothing good comes from rushing into marriage; she asked them to share the (news) stories of women who were pushed to get married, and then experienced hardships and suffering because of it.
By mid-January, within three days after she first posted her request, Weibo users had already shared dozens of news links and stories detailing the horrific accounts of women who had married to escape the pressure put on them by their families. By now, the blogger’s post itself has been reposted nearly 70,000 times.
One of the many stories was that of a young woman in Linquan county in Fuyuan, who attempted to commit suicide in the summer of 2018 after being pressured into marriage. The woman was so burdened by the pressure she faced, that she had jumped into a river. A bystander was able to alert the authorities, who were able to rescue her.
Some also share stories from their own social circles, with one commenter from Guangdong writing that a friend of her friend was also pushed to get married: “He had money, a house, and a car, but he was working night shifts in a convenience store. Turned out he was actually gay and that she ended up in a ‘fake marriage.'”
“A girl in my hometown was in her thirties and single. Her parents insisted she had to marry a man who had been married before [it was his second marriage]. I’m not sure if it was three weeks or three months after the wedding, but she returned home to visit her parents, and then committed suicide there by jumping off a building. Don’t blindly get married.”
“You are all my comrades in this campaign!”
‘Little Deer’ shared her plans on keeping a collection of these stories to post on her ‘WeChat Moments’ page every day during the Chinese New Year, to show her family what could potentially happen when women are rushed into marriage.
Many commenters praised the blogger’s initiative, writing: “I need to save this post!! It’ll be very useful during Chinese New Year!” “Exactly what I needed, thank you, everyone! You are all my comrades in this campaign, I feel very supported with all of you out there. Let’s go square dancing together when we are old!”
Others, however, were less enthusiastic and pointed out that they had tried this method before, but that their parents weren’t buying it, saying that these type of “irrelevant stories” had “nothing to do with them.”
Single men also joined the debate with many requesting the original poster to gather news stories detailing the negative outcomes for men who had been pressured to get married.
One of these stories is that of a 26-year-old man from Wuhan, who was diagnosed with severe depression after his mother had continuously urged him to marry.
By now, Little Deer’s post has also inspired people to discuss other subjects involving family pressure, asking: “Are there any stories about being pushed to have kids?” This request led to some expressing concerns about the post itself being censored: “Will this be deleted by Sina, as it’s against our current national policy of encouraging people to get married and have kids?”
“Why are you sending me these useless things?”
In early 2019, China launched a new ‘Individual Income‘ tax deduction method, which, among other things, allows children’s education expenses to be deducted before tax. Because those who are unmarried and without children will pay relatively more taxes, these parts of the personal income tax have been nicknamed ‘single’s tax’ (单身税) and ‘no children’s tax’ (不孕不育税) on social media.
These measures, along with other examples (such as the cancellation of the ‘late marriage leave‘), show the government’s efforts to combat China’s dropping birthrates, indirectly encouraging people to get married and have children.
According to a report released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2018, marriage registration numbers have been dropping in China, showing that more people are putting off marriage or are getting married at a later age – something that is especially visible in the 30-34 age group.
Some analysts believe that a higher level of education and the rising cost of living have contributed to the tendency to marry and have children at a later age.
For now, it is not clear if the blogger’s initiative is actually effective for those dreading going home for Chinese New Year. Dozens of commenters are posting their parents’ reaction upon sending them the links to the unfortunate stories of those who were rushed into marriage. “Why are you sending me these useless things,” some parents said, with another chat screenshot showing a parent writing: “Send me something positive!”
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Wu Xiubo Scandal Blows up on Chinese Social Media
One of the biggest celebrity scandals in years, involving Chinese actor Wu Xiubo, has become all the talk on Weibo this week.
“Are there any good guys left in the Chinese entertainment industry?” This is a question that is currently trending on Chinese social media (#娱乐圈好男人#). By Sunday night, the hashtag had already received over 350 million views and thousands of comments on Weibo, within a time frame of just one day.
Other hashtags that are flooding Weibo are “Female in Wu Xiubo Love Affair Gate is Detained” (#吴秀波出轨门女主被拘捕#), which has already gathered some 850 million views (!) on Weibo at time of writing. “Chen Yulin’s Parents Send an Open Letter” (#陈昱霖父母发公开信#) received over 410 million clicks.
The current trend is all about the scandal involving Beijing-born actor and musician Wu Xiubo (吴秀波, 1968), who recently had his former mistress Chen Yulin arrested for blackmailing him. She could potentially face up to ten years in prison. Wu is famous for, among others, his performance in the popular TV series Angel Heart (心术, 2012) and his role in the hit movie Finding Mr. Right (北京遇上西雅图, 2013).
The Background Story
To understand the story, and why it is blowing up, we need to go back to September of 2018, when Wu Xiubo (吴秀波), who has been married since 2002 and is the father of two children, was rumored to have been involved in a total of five different extra-marital affairs.
Although there were earlier rumors circulating online about Wu allegedly being involved in extra-marital sex with young women, the story triggered mass attention when an anonymous poster, who was later identified as Chinese actress and singer Chen Yulin, wrote down the history of her alleged love affair with Wu Xiubo in her WeChat Moments.
Chinese actress and singer Chen Yulin (陈昱霖), also known as Ruby Chen, entered the entertainment business in 2006, after participating in the CCTV programme Avenue of Stars (星光大道). Ever since, she has been making a career as a singer and an actress, but her real fame only started after exposing her affair with Wu Xiubo.
In her lengthy Wechat posts, Chen claimed to have been involved with the Chinese actor for approximately seven years. She described the relationship as being one where Wu exercised control over her by forbidding her from accepting certain jobs and persuading her to be a good house-wife. She also accused Wu of “brainwashing” her into practicing Buddhism, and to have behaved violently with her at certain occasions.
Her later posts alleged that in 2013 and 2017, she received messages from other women who were supposedly also sexually involved with Wu, one of them being the actress Zhang Zhixi (张芷溪) who co-starred with the actor during the production of the 2016 Chinese TV series The Advisors Alliance (军师联盟). She claimed the entire ordeal was to blame for her depression.
Wu, nor his management, responded to the allegations at the time, although his career and reputation as one of China’s best “middle-aged actors” (演技派大叔) were severely affected by the scandal.
The Scandal Blows Up
Although Chen Yulin never officially responded to the issue, a social media post by Chen’s parents of January 18 this year triggered discussions all over Weibo.
The post was published on Chen’s official Weibo account “on behalf of Chen’s mother and father.” In this statement, not only do Chen’s parents confirm that their daughter was the one who posted on WeChat in 2018, they also claim that Wu and his legal team had requested Chen to deny the allegations she had made against Wu, and had promised her to financially compensate her for doing so.
After the arrangement was agreed upon, the post writes, Chen decided to stay abroad for a while to stay out of the limelight. In November of 2018, Wu then called Chen to ask her to return to mainland China to settle their agreement.
The moment Chen landed at Beijing airport on November 5th of 2018, however, she was arrested by local Beijing police. Wu had reported her to the police for “blackmailing” and a “violation of privacy.” If Chen is found guilty, she could face up to ten years in jail.
Later, Chen’s parents also posted screenshots on Weibo to verify the authenticity of the love affair. The screenshots show messages between Wu and Chen, where Wu’s nickname is “AAA my dear husband” (AAA 我亲爱的老公).
Chen’s parents claim they have pleaded Wu multiple times to drop the charges, but never received a response.
An Online Storm
As the scandal is taking on biblical proportions, Wu’s wife, He Zhenya (何震亚), also came forward with a statement on January 19 through Wu Xiubo’s Weibo account (演员吴秀波工作室). The statement claims that Wu’s family has faced threats and blackmailing for the past year and a half, during which the demanded sum of money went from millions to billions of yuan.
Wu Xiubo’s management also posted a signed statement from Wu’s lawyer to Weibo, declaring that Chen did, in fact, blackmail the actor, and that her allegations are false.
Meanwhile, the scandal has flooded Weibo with comments from every corner, with public opinion about the case growing stronger and stronger. Businessman Wang Sicong, the son of one of the richest men in China, posted several times on his account, calling Wu Xiubo out for being “evil” and “trash.”
Although many people side with Chen in this case, claiming that she is the most vulnerable in this affair, there are also those who side with Wu and think that Chen is a gold digger who took advantage of the actor.
Digging up online evidence that supposedly shows that Chen has been leading a life of luxury of the past years, many netizens conclude that the actress has since long been profiting from Wu’s money. Chen’s mother denied these claims.
But there are also many who are simply disappointed with the fact that Wu allegedly had (multiple) relationships outside of his marriage. “Are there still any good guys left in the entertainment industry?” is a question that is recurringly popping up in light of a string of celebrity scandals that have hit China’s entertainment scene over previous years.
Wu Xiubo memes are also trending on Chinese social media, with one of the most popular ones saying: “Want a love affair? You may end up in jail (谈恋爱吗 要坐牢那种)”.
For now, Chen is still being detained and awaiting her trial. Her parents express their hopes for a “fair” trial that will bring “justice” for their daughter.
By Boyu Xiao, with contributions by Manya Koetse
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