BBC News recently published an article titled “Chinese web users discuss hitches to getting married“, discussing a trend on Chinese social media hashtagged “Chinese People Unwilling To Get Married” (#中国人不愿结婚#).
The article by Kerry Allen discusses how Chinese social media users have been expressing doubts about the institution of marriage. The trend was triggered by a New York Times article published on September 11, that was subsequently picked up by Chinese media.
“Although the article has valid points, there is one major issue missing from this discussion.”
The original New York Times article states that Chinese people are increasingly disinclined to get married. Because of higher education and better-paid jobs, the financial incentive to get married allegedly is less important now than it was in the past.
According to the BBC, many Chinese social media users have expressed why they no longer believe in marriage. “The institution is not as relevant as it once was”, “marriage is not a necessity”, or “the cost of marriage is too high”, are amongst the reasons mentioned.
BBC contextualizes the comments by highlighting that China’s ageing population and former one-child-policy have led to an age and gender gap that leaves many men unable to find a partner.1
The article also mentions changing attitudes among young women, as there are many who want to pursue higher education and a career rather than to be financially dependent on a partner.
Although the article has valid points, there is one major issue missing from this discussion. The BBC stresses that there is not as much incentive to get married anymore in China, with people no longer “believing” in marriage, but they do not mention the fact that it is nearly impossible to register a newborn baby without a marriage certificate – which is a major reason for people to get married anyway.
In other words: the BBC article suggests that lowered marriage numbers in China linked to a general “unwillingness” to get married, while in fact people still marry (i.a. for the sake of having babies) despite their “changing attitudes” about the institution of marriage.
“Birthing a child out of wedlock is next to unheard of in China.”
The People’s Republic of China requires couples to be legally married if they want to have a child. This is related to the Chinese hukou or ‘household registration’ system. A person’s hukou basically is their geographic citizenship within China. One’s hukou is directly linked to one’s parents, city, town, and province, and determines almost all aspects of social welfare, including how much one pays to buy housing in their city of residence and the cost of education.
People without a hukou are called ‘heihu’, which translates directly to ‘black resident’. A heihu cannot apply for a national ID, and thus cannot have a mobile phone account, a bank account, or a health insurance policy, and cannot buy train or plane tickets legally.
Clearly, it is impossible to lead a normal life in China without hukou, and since a marriage license is required for parents to register their children in the system, birthing a child out of wedlock is next to unheard of in China.
“Any media that does not look at the policies behind negative emotions expressed via social media will not have a complete understanding of the situation in China.”
While many men and women in China express negative or ambivalent attitudes towards marriage and the accompanying social pressure to tie the knot, if these people truly wish to remain single, or unmarried in any other context, they are automatically forgoing the right to have a child. While many people complain about marriage as an institution, very few in China actually follow through on their gripes.
Perhaps the reason that people indeed complain, saying they do not wish to marry or they have negative feelings about the institution, stems from a deeper, often subconscious trend to self-censor. In a country where directly criticising government policies can have serious repercussions, it is much easier and safer to express views and opinions as feelings. Instead of criticising government policies on carbon emissions, for example, netizens are likely to talk about how depressing the grey air is.2
Complaining about China’s marriage system, or saying ‘the government should not let us get married to have children’, is something less likely to be found trending on Chinese social media.
Because of this indirect style of expressing grievances, any media that does not look at the policies behind negative emotions expressed via Chinese social media will not have a complete understanding of the situation in China, and indeed might be even so nearsighted as not to grasp a larger, more pertinent trend.
“Where are all those women who supposedly do not want to get married?”
It is, however, true that marriage rates have been declining in China. As the Chinese population is getting increasingly old, with a surplus of men on the lower end of the social scale, and a large number of educated and ambitious (“leftover”) women on the higher end of the social scale, and people getting married at a later age, it is not surprising that marriage registrations in China have been falling for the last few years.
Looking on Weibo, I found that there also were many netizens with other points of view than those expressed in the BBC article. One TV presenter wrote: “Chinese people unwilling to get married – these Americans are talking nonsense. What we as Chinese value most in life is family. But because the costs to get married and start a family are now too high, many young people are forced to work hard first. But to “start a family and make a career” (成家立业) makes sense. The family is our driving force and natural harbor. Making a career is a goal and a hope.”
Others also said: “This news is nonsense. This is one big generalisation. Where are all those women who supposedly do not want to get married? It’s not that they do not want to get married, it’s that they cannot find the right person!”
– By Ryan Myers
1 Since it is mostly those at the lower end of the social ladder who stay behind, they end up in a negative spiral: they are already at a disadvantage for statistically not being able to find a wife, but because of their economic situation, they also cannot afford to buy a home for his potential partner – making them even less popular on the marriage market.
2 This type of expression may, at least with regards to social harmony, have a positive affect. After all, China has experienced much less social unrest in recent years than most western countries.
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“What’s Modernisation?” – Chinese State Media Explain China’s ‘New Era’ With a Rap Video
No three-and-a-half-hour speech, but a three-and-a-half minute video explains China’s new strategies in this latest propaganda clip on social media.
The much-anticipated 19th Party Congress opened last Wednesday in Beijing with Xi Jinping’s three-and-a-half-hour speech on “Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (新时代中国特色社会主义思想), which presented the Party’s new concepts, thoughts and strategies – with Xi himself at its core.
Shi-jiu-da (十九大, ‘big 19’) is the popular abbreviation for the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China. This Plenum is held once every five years and is the highest level political meeting in the Chinese calendar. The meeting is also a big topic on Chinese social media; the Weibo hashtag for the ‘big 19’ event #十九大# was viewed over 3,6 billion times on Friday.
As with previous major political gatherings, speeches and rhetoric are not the only means by which the Party and state media seek to convey their message to the wider population. A video titled “What is modernization? Let us tell you in a rap!” (“现代化”是什么化？一段嘻哈告诉你!) is the latest in a series produced by state broadcaster CCTV. The video is being spread through social media.
The clip (click link or see embedded video below), that lays out the government’s stategies for China’s ‘new era’ through rap music with bright graphics, was widely distributed on Chinese social media this week by various media platforms and institutions, from the Economic Observer (@经济观察报) to the Ministry of Public Security.
The translation of the video’s full text* is as follows:
This October in Beijing
…will all be arriving!
The time has come for 十九大（shi-jiu-da）
Listen out for the important voices
十九大 (shi-jiu-da) let’s say a little about it
There is a lot of information here
So, listen out carefully and I’ll speak slowly
In the past, China has always advanced courageously
As we have said before,
When difficult problems are solved then great things can be established!
Our nation is full of vigor and vitality!
Anti-corruption efforts are strong
Many tigers have been taken down
From rocket lift-offs to submarine exercises,
Technology is changing our lives
Haha, Haha, Haha,
As I’m going to show up next, we have plans going forward…
[Xi Jinping’s voice speaking:]
By the time we reach the middle period of this century, we will have built a modern socialist state which is rich and powerful, democratic, civilised, and harmonious. In this way, we will have realized the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.
But, building in accordance with the needs of modernization
What even is modernization?
Let me tell you:
[End of rap, start of explanation by lecturer:]
100 years ago, Sun Yat-sen set out a blueprint for modernization in ‘Strategy for Building a Nation’: build train tracks, repair the roads, construct large ports. At that time, this was still considered fantastical and unrealistic.
But today, train lines criss-cross the whole nation! They run N-S between Beijing-Guangdong-Shanghai, as well as across the well-trodden route of Lanzhou-Chengdu-Chongqing. The length of the journey on the bullet trains just keeps reducing!
Again, at the time the People’s Republic was founded, not even a tractor could be built! Thus, building a modern, industrial socialist nation became our aim.
In 1954, the first National People’s Congress was held. This was the first time the aim of achieving the Four Modernizations was clearly referenced. In just the next few years, factory after factory was built, including those of Anshan Steel works and Changchun car manufacturers.
Our workers are powerful!
This was a song I would listen to when I was young, and hearing it I would know my dad would soon finish work for the day and so I would quickly pack away all my marbles. Entering the period of opening and reform, Deng Xiaoping named the Four Modernizations as the way to ‘Chinese Modernization’, as well as wanting to become a middle-income nation.
In the 1970s, when people married, the three major durable consumer goods were still watches, bicycles and sewing machines. In the 80s, this became fridges, color TVs, and washing machines, and by the 90s changed again into air conditioning, cameras, and camcorders.
[Xi Jinping’s voice:]
Now, information technologies such as the internet are changing with each passing day. This is leading a new revolution in society and bringing new dimensions into human lives.
A report from the 18th Party Congress, published on 8th November 2012, mentioned the ‘4 New Modernisations.’ This has led to the implementation of an innovation-driven development strategy. Over the last 5 years, the major technological developments we have made have accumulated further and further. The computing in the Sunway Taihu Light is the most advanced in the world.
The quantum satellite Mozi Hao is unparalleled. The Tiangong 2 satellite has been sent off smoothly. Each of these wondrous engineering projects is a feat of its own! What a country!
In 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping then added one more modernization into the fold, that being to ‘continue to advance the nation’s governing system, and to modernize our governing capabilities.’
Modernisation as a whole is very impressive. Frankly speaking, only this modernization of the inner qualities of officials and organizations will enable them to govern the country and change the civilized norms.We don’t take a break from modernization!
Yeah, now that we have become a middle-class society
We have reached the most important section of our reform agenda
What are the issues that affect the lives of the middle class?
At this stage in the development of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,
People are heading in the direction of a better life
The Party must remember
This is a new beginning!
In what direction is the bullet train heading?
After 200 years, will the Chinese dream have been realized?
What expectations do Chinese families have for their future?
Will the 十九大 (shi-jiu-da) answer these questions for you?
Both the design and the genre of the new clip show some resemblance to clips launched during the Belt and Road Summit earlier this year.
On Weibo, a platform that is heavily controlled during the 19th National Congress, the video was shared hundreds of times. Although discussions on the video are limited due to current restrictions, one surprised netizen just posted: “Can I actually comment on this?!”
By Alice Mingay
* Full Text:
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These are the 100 Terms the Communist Party Wants You to Know for the 19th CPC National Congress
100 “must-know” terms for the 19th National Congress, propagated by People’s Daily.
It is the week of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), better known as the “19th Party Congress.” This meeting, that takes place from October 18 to October 24, is a major event that takes place every five years.
On Chinese social media, Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily (@人民日报) presented a vocabulary list for people to know before the huge political event.
During the 19th Party Congress approximately 2280 delegates from across the nation officially come together to select the party’s top leadership for the next five years. The event is also called a “celebration of decisions that have already been taken,” as the key points of the meeting have mostly already been settled behind closed doors.
It is these key decisions for China that will be discussed during the CPC National Congress and then officially announced, representing “new governance concepts, thoughts and strategies proposed by the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core” (Xinhua).
In a recent report by APCO Worldwide, Gary Li summarizes what to look out for during the 19th National Congress, writing that it is likely for President Xi Jinping to “consolidate his power further by making changes to the party apparatus,” influencing regulators in various sectors from finance to trade and cybersecurity.
Posting the 9-page list of a total of 100 terms on Weibo, People’s Daily (@人民日报) writes:
“Study time! We want to teach you the translation of 100 hot terms for the 19th CPC National Congress (..) Do you know how to say these things in English? This is how to avoid using Chinglish and to express [these terms] in a more authentic way. They are all useful for CET-4 & CET-6 [national English level tests in China] and other exams. Let’s learn these!”
By October 18, the list was shared 19000 times on Weibo and received many comments.
One netizen said: “With these 100 words you can understand a new China.” Others complained that they still think the English translation of these Chinese terms “sounds like Chinglish.”
Relevant Words: Policy Trends & Digital Focus
The vocabulary list, which was selected from China Daily‘s “Little Red Book of Hot Words” (热词红宝书), is an interesting combination of terms that says a lot about the focal points of the National Congress and the trends that are emphasized for the coming five years.
In the recent APCO report, Gary Li mentions Ideological Tightening as a crucial policy trend. This promotion of “Chinese values” is clearly visible in the vocabularly list, that includes terms such as “the Chinese Dream” (中国梦), “Stay true to the mission” (不忘初心), and “cultural confidence” (文化自信).
Another important policy trend on the government agenda is Anti-Corruption, which is represented by the term “anti-corruption TV series” (反腐剧).
The list also includes some Internet slang terms such as “give a like” (点赞) or “phubber”/”bowed head clan” (低头族), referring to people who constantly look down to their smartphone.
It also includes a catchphrase that became especially popular on Chinese social media in 2016 when it was used by Chinese swimming champion Fu Yuanhui during an interview about her winning medal during the Olympics – (“用了洪荒之力”), which can be translated as “I’ve used my primeval powers!”, basically meaning “to give one’s full play.”
The inclusion of some typical internet catchphrases is especially noteworthy because in 2014, Chinese state media published that programs and commercials should not use Internet language to preserve traditional expressions.
The entire list has a clear Digital Focus when it comes to different industries, including government, media, finance, and traveling, introducing words such as “in-flight Wifi services” (空中上网服务), “face scan payment” (扫脸支付), 5G era (5G时代), and taxi-hailing app (打车软件).
The list also includes words that emphasize the Belt and Road Initiative and China-centric Relations for Economy and Trade, such as the “New type of major-power relationship” (新型大国关系).
The List: 100 Hot Words for the 19th National Congress
This is the full list of the 100 terms as shared by the People’s Daily through screenshots, typed out by What’s on Weibo. The pinyin and tones are also provided by What’s on Weibo.
Bù wàng chūxīn
Stay true to the mission
Liǎng gè yībǎi nián
Two centenary goals
Zhōngguó zhìzào 2025
Made in China 2025
Double First-Class initiative
Zhōngguó tiānyǎn:500 Mǐ kǒujìng qiúmiàn shèdiàn wàngyuǎnjìng (FAST)
China’s Eye of Heaven: The 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope
J-20 Stealth Fighter
Domestically built aircraft carrier
Homemade passenger jet
Kěrán bīng shì cǎi
Sampling of combustible ice
Liàngzǐ wèixīng “mò zi hào”
Quantum satellite “Micius”
Běidǒu wèixīng dǎoháng xìtǒng
Beidou navigation system
Fēngyún sì hào A xīng wèixīng
Zhòngxíng yùnzài huǒjiàn
Heavy-lift Carrier Rocket
Hù gǎng tōng
Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect
Shēn gǎng tōng
Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect
Jīng jīn jì yītǐ huà
Xióng ān xīnqū
Xiong’an New Area
Zì mào shíyàn qū
Pilot Free Trade Zones
Gōngjǐ cè gǎigé
Sǎo liǎn zhīfù
Face scan payment
Èr wéi mǎ zhīfù
Two-dimensional barcode payment
Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank
Dī tàn chéngshì
Yī xiǎoshí tōng tōngqín quān
One-hour commuting circle
Lán sè jīngjì
Zòngxiàng héngxiàng jīngjì zhóu dài
North-south and east-west intersecting economic belts
Zhòng chuàng, zhòng bāo, zhòng fú, zhòng chóu
Crowd innovation， crowdsourcing，crowd support and crowdfunding.
Zhànlüè xìng xīnxīng chǎnyè
Emerging sectors of strategic importance
Xiānggǎng huíguī zǔguó 20 zhōunián
The 20th anniversary of Hong-Kong’s return to China
Give a like
Real name authentication
Targeted poverty reduction
Community of shared interests
Chéng jì lièchē
Belt and Road Initiative
“Sīchóu zhī lù jīngjì dài”
The Silk Road Economic Belt
21 Shìjì hǎishàng sīchóu zhī lù
21st- Century Maritime Silk Road
Gǔ sīchóu zhī lù
The Ancient Silk Road
Establish and Strengthen Partnerships/Connectivity
Xīnxíng dàguó guānxì
New type of major-power relationship
Kě tìdài néngyuán qìchē
Alternative energy vehicle
Kě zài rén wú rén jī
Kōngzhōng shàngwǎng fúwù
In-flight Wifi services
Hǎiwài gòu wài
Overseas shopping representative
Cross-border online shopping
Duō cì wǎngfǎn qiānzhèng
Multiple entry visa
Gēn tuán yóu
Wú xiànjīn zhīfù
Anti-corruption TV series
Dài jià fúwù yè
Designated driver business
Dān shuāng hào yínháng
Traffic restrictions based on even- and odd-numbered license plates
Lǜsè jīnróng gǎigé xīn shìyàn qū
Pilot zones for green finance reform and innovations
Chāo guómín dàiyù
Xiàndài yīyuàn guǎnlǐ zhìdù
Modern hospital management system
Jīyù zhī chéng
Cities of opportunities
Live stream economy
Hùliánwǎng +zhèngfǔ fúwù
Internet Plus government services
Chuàngxīn xíng zhèngfǔ
Wú rén jī jǐnjí jiùyuán duì
UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) emergency rescue team
Èr hái jīngjì
Fùqīn jià; péi chǎnjià
Dài xīn xiūjià
Yòngle hónghuāng zhī lì
Give one’s full play
Yíng gǎi zēng
Replace business tax with value-add tax (VAT）
Chuàngxīn xíng réncái
Jīfēn luòhù zhìdù
Points-based hukou system
Hùnhé suǒyǒuzhì gǎigé
Tax reduction and exemption
Shēngtài bǎohù hóngxiàn
Wǎng yuē chē
Yí jū chéngshì
Shuāng chuàng réncái
Innovative and entrepreneutrial talent
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