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China’s Proposed ‘No Child Tax’ Stirs Controversy: “First Forced Abortions, Now Pressured Into Pregnancy”

Whose right is it to decide whether or not have a second child – and who pays the price?

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A recent article, in which two Chinese academics propose the implementation of some sort of ‘tax’ for people under 40 who have no second child, has sparked outrage on social media. “The same woman who had to undergo a forced abortion before, is now pressured to get pregnant,” some say.

A controversial ‘no child tax’ measure proposed by two Chinese academics has set off a wave of criticism on Chinese social media this week.

The proposal was published in Xinhua Daily, a newspaper controlled by the Jiangsu Communist Party branch, on August 14, and was authored by Nanjing University economics professors Liu Zhibiao (刘志彪) and Zhang Ye (张晔).

In their proposal, Liu and Zhang suggest various measures to prevent a supposed demographic crisis in mainland China. Their idea of imposing taxes on those who do not have a second child particularly sparked anger online.

The authors plead for a so-called ‘maternity fund system’ (生育基金制度) in which citizens under the age of 40, regardless of gender, have to pay a certain percentage of their income in some sort of ‘tax fund’ as long as they do not bear a second child.

They write:

If families do have more than one child, they can apply for withdrawal from the ‘maternity fund’ and receive subsidies that will compensate for the short-term income losses women and the family might suffer during maternity leave. If citizens do not have a second child, the deposited money will stay in the account and can be taken out by the time they retire. The ‘maternity fund’ adopts the Pay-as-you-go System, which means that individual deposits and the ‘maternity funds’ that have not yet been taken out can be used by the government to provide other families with maternity subsidies, and if it is not sufficient, the state will subsidize it.

The proposal has caused uproar on Chinese social media, where many see an obligatory maternity fund as a penalty rather than an award, and see the compulsory payments as a ‘fine’ in disguise for families that do not have a second baby.

“So now I get a fine for being single?”, some said on Weibo: “Are they now punishing us for not having children?”

 

IS HAVING A BABY A ‘STATE AFFAIR’?

“They do not treat us as humans, they do not treat us as women, they treat us as ‘fertility resources’.”

 

The current controversy is the second in a row in this month. On August 6, official Party newspaper People’s Daily published another article titled “Having a Baby is a Family Matter and also a State Affair” (“生娃是家事也是国事“). In this article, People’s Daily author Zhang Yiqi (张一琪) argues that “the government should take more targeted measures to solve the problem of low birth rates.”

The article from August 6 made it to top trending lists on social media.

This article also made it to the top trending topics on Weibo, where many women rejected such ideas. “They do not treat us as humans, they do not treat us as women,” author Hou Hongbin (@侯虹斌) said on Weibo: “They’re treating us as ‘fertility resources’ (生育资源).”

With the growing societal burdens of China’s ageing crisis, many demographers have called for a liberalization of the family planning system before.

Previous proposals to encourage more and earlier childbirth in Chinese women also sparked controversy. Last year, for example, many people were shocked when a National People’s Congress deputy called for a lowering of China’s legal marriage age.

It seems that all these (proposed) measures, however, are not making young people more eager to marry young and bear (more) children. Even now that the two-child policy is new national standard (全面二孩), it is not having the desired effect: according to data released by the China Population and Development Research Center, the total number of births in mainland China in 2017 was 17.23 million – which indicates a decrease of 630,000 from the previous year.

China’s population is growing old at a faster rate than almost all other countries in the world. In a recent publication in China Newsweek, Population & Economics professor Zhang Chewei expressed concerns over China’s ageing population, writing: “In 2017, the population of China aged 65 and older accounted for 11.4% of the total population. Although this percentage is not extremely high, the biggest concern is that China’s aging rate is the fastest in the world. Even more concerning is that the aging process of developed countries generally lasts for decades, or even for more than a century.”

Although most people are aware of China’s demographic troubles, many take issue with the way the government addresses this problem.

“I understand the pressure the country is facing regarding its dropping birthrates, but in whose hand is the right to reproduce?”, some write on Weibo. “Reproduction should be a citizen’s right, not an obligation,” others said.

 

OPPOSING MEASURES

“Not long ago second children had to be aborted, and now I have to pay for a second child I don’t even have.”

 

This week’s controversy has also brought about major online discussions on China’s previous forced abortions during the One Child Policy decades. To adhere to the country’s strict family planning policies, many women were subjected to forced sterilizations or abortions.

A typical comment in response to proposed measures to encourage childbirth said: “Not long ago second children had to be aborted, and now I have to pay for a second child I don’t even have. What’s next?”

A 2015 Netease news article that looked back at a forced abortion that occurred in Shaanxi in 2012 was pulled from the archives and was shared over 65,000 times on Weibo this week.

This article about a forced abortion in Shaanxi went viral this week.

The viral post looks back at the forced abortion of Feng Jianmei, of which the photos shocked the internet in 2012. Feng Jianmei was seven months pregnant with her second child when she had to undergo an abortion after local officials had demanded that Feng and her husband pay a 40,000 yuan ($5800) fine for violating the one-child policy, which they could not pay.

The photo of Feng Jianmei laying on the hospital bed beside the dead fetus became a symbol of the dark side of China’s strict family planning policy. The three officials responsible for the forced abortion were later suspended.

“I’ve just become a mother myself, and I can’t bear to look at this photograph,” one woman responded: “The poor child, the poor mother. The person who was forced to have an abortion then, is the same person who is pressured to have a baby now. Can we still make our own decisions, not even as women, but as [Chinese] citizens? To have a baby or not is a decision that should be made between a husband and wife, why would you want to force someone to such a degree?!”

 

SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME

“They just wanted to throw a stone to test the waters.”

 

Not just individuals netizens collectively speak out against the ‘maternity tax’ proposal; some state media articles also condemn it.

In an article published by CCTV on Friday, the author called the proposal “unbelievable,” suggesting that the implementation of such a policy would only have an adverse effect on young peoples’ willingness to have a second child.

The article further argues that the reason for China’s current low birth-rate lies in the sharp rise in the costs of raising children, along with other factors such as China’s changing society and women’s labor participation.

Other media, such as Sina News, suggest that the implementation of this policy will only increase the financial burden on young people. Since the average cost of a child from birth to its 18th birthday is an average of 2.76 million yuan ($445,000) in cities such as Beijing, a financial burden too heavy for many, the proposed government’s rewards and subsidies are nothing in comparison of the actual cost.

Having to pay an extra tax on top of a life that already is expensive might push couples in the opposite direction than the policy intends; making them decide that having a child is financially not possible at all.

Many netizens allege that the recent media attention for these kind of proposals and a rumored ‘three child policy’ are just a sign of things to come.

As discussions on the issue continued on Weibo this weekend, some comment sections were no longer visible for viewing, including a thread by CCTV that received more than 9000 responses.

“Maybe they just wanted to throw out a stone to test the water,” some speculated: “They wanted to know the public’s opinions, and it’s turned out against them.”

By Gabi Verberg, Manya Koetse, and Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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China Media

“Tyrant Train Woman” Goes Trending on Weibo and Unleashes Flood of New Memes

The hashtag “High-Speed Tyrant Woman” (#高铁霸座女#) already received a staggering 450 million views on Weibo today.

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While the bizarre behavior of a male passenger went viral in late August, this time, it is a female passenger’s rude behavior that’s become trending on Chinese social media. Some netizens think the two ‘high-speed train tyrants’ (高铁霸座) deserve each other, creating memes putting them together.

In late August of this year, one rude man from Shandong who refused to give up the seat he took from another passenger became known as the “High-Speed Train Tyrant” (高铁霸座男 gāotiě bà zuò nán) on Chinese social media.

A video showing the man’s bizarre behavior went viral, and netizens were especially angry because the man pretended he could not get up from the stolen seat and needed a wheelchair – although he did not need one when boarding the train.

The man pretended he needed a wheelchair, but actually did not want to give up the window seat.

The man was later temporarily blacklisted for his actions. Although he apologized in a public video, a newer video (Youtube link) made clear the man was everything but remorseful, as it showed him laughing, using an office chair as a ‘wheelchair,’ and joking around about his own behavior.

The “train tyrant” from Shandong.

The train bully that is now going viral, is a woman from Hunan who has been dubbed ‘High-Speed Train Tyrant Woman’ (高铁霸座女 gāotiě bà zuò nǚ”) by Weibo netizens. She had taken a seat assigned to another passenger while riding the train from Yongzhou to Shenzhen.

A video (YouTube link here) – that has become one of the most-discussed topics on Weibo today – shows how a woman on a high-speed train makes a scene when the train conductor tells her she is in the wrong seat. She refuses to get up from her window seat to return to her own seat.

Instead, she raises her voice, talks rudely to the conductor, and simply claims she has bought a ticket and will not change to another seat until she has reached her final destination.

The hashtag “High-Speed Tyrant Woman” (#高铁霸座女#) already saw a staggering 450 million views at time of writing.

According to a Weibo statement that has been issued by Hengyang Railway Security (@衡阳铁路公安处) since the topic has become trending, the incident occurred on Wednesday, September 19, on a G6078 train. The stubborn passenger is the 32-year-old Ms. Zhou. She has now been fined 200 RMB (±$30) for “disturbing the order.”

Weibo statement.

“Couldn’t you fine these passengers a bit more?”, some netizens wonder: “If the fine were higher, it might not happen that often anymore.”

Many netizens are simply outraged: “Isn’t this a society that is ruled by law? What do we do with these people?”

“How can people be so shameless?”, a typical comment says.

While the incident is a source of anger for many, it is a source of banter for some; the incident has triggered a wave of new memes today that put the Shandong train tyrant and the woman together.

Some examples here:

Here:

…here:

Or here:

Meanwhile, Guangzhou Railways (@广州铁路) has also responded to the issue on Weibo, stating that in cases such as these (when passengers are fined for their behavior), passengers can expect a 180-day ban from purchasing train tickets.

Just as in the case with the male ‘train tyrant,’ this time as well, the so-called human flesh search engine has come into action once the video went viral, meaning many netizens went digging to reveal the woman’s identity. Her personal details have since been exposed on social media – a burden that will probably weigh much heavier on her than a temporary train ban or a 200 RMB fine.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health

Chinese ‘Scientific’ Study Claims Acupuncture Performed on Parents Can Cure Their Children

“How could such a study be published in a renowned scientific publication?,” some wonder.

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Cartoon published by Beijing News in response to the study, by illustrator Liu Jun 刘俊.

A Chinese study published in a renowned academic periodical has received much online attention this week. The research, that suggests sick children could be cured by performing acupuncture on their parents, has generated waves of criticism – many of those commenting are doctors themselves.

A Chinese academic publication has stirred controversy recently, nearly a year after it was published.

In November of 2017, the Chinese journal Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion (中国针灸) published an article titled “Discussion on Quantum Entanglement Theory and Acupuncture” (试论“量子纠缠”与针灸), written by Wang Jun (王军), Wu Bin (吴彬), and Chen Sheng (陈晟), who are affiliated with Beijing’s Dongzhimen Hospital and its Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

The authors of the study suggest that there is a so-called ‘quantum entanglement’ between parents and children.

As explained by Science Daily, ‘quantum entanglement’ refers to the idea that “two particles, no matter how distant from each other in space and time, can be inextricably linked, in a way that defies the rules of classical physics.” (Read more on quantum entanglement here).

A summary on the first page of the published paper.

In the controversial paper, Wang and the two co-authors argue that the characteristics of quantum entanglement are reflected in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture theory, and clinical practice, and that acupuncture on a parent would theoretically also be able to treat their children; in other words, suggesting that a sick child (or a child in pain) could benefit from a mother undergoing acupuncture. The same principle would apply to sibling relationships.

Author Wang Jun and co-authors describe they have conducted experiments with 15 patients with pain symptoms and their direct relatives to prove their theory; 14 of these patients and their relatives were put in the same room when receiving the acupuncture treatment, while one patient was separated from their relatives when they received the treatment. Upon completion, the results indicated that all patients’ pain symptoms were at least somewhat alleviated. In four patients, the pain even disappeared.

The study received online attention when it was discussed on popular Q&A platform Zhihu.com and on a science blog earlier last week (September 14).

 

As a doctor, I’m speechless after reading this.”

 

On Zhihu.com, segments of the article were republished online, with the main poster asking: “How should we evaluate the ‘Discussion on Quantum Entanglement Theory and Acupuncture’ (试论“量子纠缠”与针灸)?”

The question, that was viewed more than 80,000 times, received many replies. One comment from a Beijing medical doctor (verified account) named Dr. Zeng said:

(..) “As a doctor, I’m speechless after reading this. This was published in the scientific journal Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion (中国针灸). Based on what I found online, this magazine was founded in 1981 and falls under the responsibility of the Chinese Science and Technology Association (中国科学技术协会); it’s a monthly joint effort by the Chinese Acupuncture Association and the Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion of the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a publication that is at the core of Chinese science and technology, it is a periodical that is at the core of Chinese-language science, and China’s scientific databases (..) In other words, it is a very authoritative publication within the domain of acupuncture. Your research has to be quite great in order for it to be published in it.”

The full version of the publication can be found in the online China Academic Journals Full-text Database, better known as CNKI (中国知网), a national online database under the lead of Tsinghua University.

Dr. Zeng continues:

To suggest that when children fall ill, their parents just need to undergo some acupuncture and they’ll be fine, because there is ‘quantum entanglement’ (量子纠缠) among blood kins – saying that acupuncture on the parents is equal to acupuncture on the children -, this is really serious. According to this theory, we might as well cancel pediatrics.”

The doctor further reprimands the magazine and the authors for letting such a controversial study enter the publication, and thus international academic databases.

 

The only thing that the researchers of this paper prove, is that they themselves need to be treated.”

 

The study, further also criticized on a Science Net blog (where parts of the study were also republished), then started to gain attention on Weibo and other social media platforms, where many popular accounts started spreading the study’s findings.

As a result, netizens started ridiculing the “miraculous” theory and let their imaginations run wild about all the future treatment possibilities. One Weibo users jokingly wrote: “This is a nice new way to discover who your real father is. If the treatment on your father doesn’t bring about any positive results on you, you might have to talk to your neighbor and let him undergo the treatment instead.”

One of the most popular Weibo comments said: “The only thing that the researchers of this paper prove, is that they themselves need to be treated.”

Hashtags such as “Treat the mum with acupuncture if the child gets sick” (#孩子生病扎他妈治疗#)received more than four million views at time of writing.

The research also received attention in Chinese newspapers and online media, where reporters asked other scientists to comment on the controversy.

In an interview in the Science and Technology Daily (科技日报), Zhang Wenzhuo (张文卓), an associate researcher at the Institute of Quantum Information and Technology Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (中国科学院量子信息与量子科技创新), said that the theory presented by Wang Jun and his co-authors is a “very irresponsible abuse of the quantum theory.”

 

It is swindlers such as these who have destroyed TCM.”

 

Since the research has gone viral on Chinese social media, Beijing Dongzhimen Hospital has responded to the controversy from its Weibo account (@北京东直门医院) with an official statement.

The statement confirms that the authors of the publication are affiliated to the Dongzhimen Hospital of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, and says that the hospital has let other experts look into this research.

“After getting an understanding of the situation and closely examining the paper,” they write: “we believe that the theory belongs to the authors’ individual thinkings which they based on connected theories and phenomenon (..)”, and that this particular theory “is not instructive for clinical medicine.”

One of the most popular comments replying to the statement comes from a Suzhou doctor in internal medicine (verified account), who says: “In all seriousness, this is some serious nonsense (“一本正经的胡说八道”).”

Many people also take this research as an opportunity to criticize Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Traditional Chinese Medicine are a national treasure, but too many people use it to cheat on others,” one another commenter writes. “It is swindlers such as these who have destroyed TCM,” another person replies.

Amidst all condemnation of the research, there are some voices on Weibo who are pleading for people to look deeper into the research before attacking it. Others also respond to those saying that Traditional Chinese Medicine are not scientific, saying: “First, make sure you clearly understand what science is.”

According to Chinese online media outlet The Paper, the study’s authors have not responded to any requests to comment on the controversy over their theory.

By Manya Koetse and Gabi Verberg
with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Featured cartoon published by Beijing News in response to the study, by illustrator Liu Jun 刘俊.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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