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China Sex & Gender

Cracking Down on ‘Unhealthy’ Wedding Customs: Xiong’an New Area Launches Wedding Reform Experiment

Are these announced reforms “neglecting the root and pursuing the tip” of existing problems with weddings and marriage in China?

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Authorities in China’s Hebei want to curb ‘unhealthy’ wedding practices such as the custom of giving exorbitant bride prices. On social media, many people think the announced reforms ignore deeper structural inequalities in Chinese marriages.

On May 26, Xiong’an New Area (雄安新区), the state-level new area in China’s Hebei Province, announced a reform experiment for local wedding customs.

The Hebei Provincial Department of Civil Affairs published a document on its website on May 24 on the reforms that will be tried out for the upcoming three years. The ‘experiment’ will be carried out in Xiong’an New Area, Baoding’s Lianchi district, Hengshui’s Jizhou district, Handan’s Feixiang district, and in Xinji city.

Xiong’an New Area is located south of Beijing, map by https://www.hitachi.com/rev/archive/2021/r2021_01/gir/index.html

The experimental reform will focus on curbing wedding customs such as bride prices, peer competition, ‘extravagance and wastefulness’ during weddings, and other practices that local authorities deem “unhealthy.”

On Weibo, one hashtag page dedicated to the topic (#雄安被确认为婚俗改革实验区#) received over 230 million views on May 26.

Weddings and marriage are always much-discussed topics on Chinese social media, especially over the past few years when the number of marriages in China saw a drastic decline. Over the past year, marriages in China saw the biggest drop in decades while the country’s divorce rate has been climbing.

Meanwhile, China’s population is aging and birth rates have fallen to record lows.

The custom of bride prices is one topic that has particularly sparked online discussions throughout the years.

Bride prices are a long-standing tradition in China. A ‘bride price’ is an amount of money or goods paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family upon marriage. Since China’s gender imbalance has made it more difficult for men to find a bride, the ‘bridewealth’ prices have gone up drastically over the years. This holds especially true for the poorer, rural areas in China, where men are sometimes expected to pay staggering prices to their bride’s family before marriage.

Earlier this month, state media outlet Global Times reported that the high competition between men of marriageable age pushed up the price of brides in rural areas. The price of a bride in Jiaocun town was reported to be between 150,000 yuan ($23,295) and 200,000 yuan in 2017, and allegedly continues to rise by 10,000-20,000 yuan each year.

For many Chinese young people, getting married is not on the top of their wishlist. When a national survey recently revealed that one in five women in China regret getting married – another survey said it was 30% of women -, many commenters on social media suggested the actual number was probably much higher.

The fact that the package deal of marriage in China is unappealing to many people is linked to a myriad of issues, and many social media commenters remark that solely focusing on tackling the issue of wedding customs and bride prices is just “neglecting the root and pursuing the tip” (“舍本逐末”).

On Weibo, hundreds of commenters suggest that deeper issues relating to the status and rights of married women in China are more important to focus on.

“You neglect the fact that males are valued more than females, and instead prioritize the bride price issue,” one Weibo user complained. Many others agreed, with the following comments receiving much support on Weibo:

“Why can’t you focus on practical matters? The bride price isn’t the reason why our marriage rates are dropping.”

“How about the fact that the children always take on the father’s name, isn’t that a ‘wedding custom’? (..) How about gender equality? How are you planning to reform that?”

“This is done quite fast, how about dealing with domestic violence now?”

“It’s fine if you take away the bride price, but will [rural] women then also get a fair division of residential property?”

“First you introduce a cooling-off period for divorce, then you promote a cancelation of the bride price, then you propagate having a second or third child. It’s like these experts are in their offices all day long plotting against women and thinking of ways to maximize their exploitation.”

Last month, Chinese newspaper The Paper published a column by wedding blogger Zheng Rongxiang (郑荣翔) about the announced wedding reforms, which are also expected to roll out in other regions across China from Henan to Guangdong and beyond.

Zheng argues that many Chinese weddings have become a show of wealth, especially in the age of social media. Extravagant wedding banquets where most of the food goes to waste, extreme wedding customs and games in which bridesmaids or the bride and groom are embarrassed, and an unreasonable emphasis on the height of bride prices – these practices have nothing to with traditions anymore and are far removed from what marriage is all about, Zheng writes.

Although many people on social media are not necessarily opposed to the bride price and other customs being changed, they are more angered that other more deep-rooted problems are left untouched: “Why don’t you change the marriage law first?”

For more on this also read:

 

By Manya Koetse

Featured image via Hunliji.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Sex & Gender

Shouqi Ride-Hailing Incident: Hangzhou Female Passenger Jumps from Moving Car

‘Delusional’ or ‘vigilant’? Weibo discussions over the woman who jumped from a moving vehicle when her Shouqi driver deviated from the route.

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After the Didi murders and the Huolala case, the ‘Shouqi incident’ is now making headlines in China, showing that there is still a lot of distrust in car-hailing services among Chinese female passengers.

The story of a female passenger jumping from a moving taxi she had arranged via ride-hailing app Shouqi (首汽约车) has gone viral on Chinese social media.

The passenger, Ms. Gao, jumped from the moving vehicle in the late afternoon of June 12 because she feared for her personal safety after the driver had allegedly deviated from the intended route.

Ms. Gao was traveling from Hangzhou to Fuyang when the incident occurred. The woman states that once she got in the taxi, the driver attempted to make a pass at her and changed the route twice.

Gao eventually decided to jump from the moving car, resulting in a fractured left arm and extensive bruising.

Ms. Gao in hospital, photo via Sohu.com.

Shouqi is a state-backed online ride-hailing platform founded in 2015 that focuses on luxury & high-quality services.

Shouqi Responds

On June 19, Shouqi officially responded to the matter after carrying out an investigation.

According to the Shouqi report, their driver, Zhang, deviated from the navigation route because he opted to take a faster road that had been newly opened and was not recognized by the navigation app yet. Since he had taken this alternative route, the voice navigation kept reminding him that he was taking the wrong route. The female passenger jumped out of the car shortly afterward.

Part of Shouqi’s statement.

Shouqi states that according to protocol, there is an audio recording of the journey. Although the recording did capture the voice navigation indicating the car was deviating from the original route, there was no sign of an altercation or discussion between the driver and the passenger before she jumped out. The company also said it would release the recording to the media if Ms. Gao would give them permission to do so.

After Gao had jumped from the vehicle, driver Zhang allegedly pulled over to check on her and immediately called the emergency number for medical help. Meanwhile, Gao tried to alert other cars that were passing by to get help. Afterward, Zhang drove to the local police station to cooperate with the investigation.

The company’s statement further says that local authorities claim the incident was caused by a “misunderstanding” between the passenger and the driver.

In the statement, the car-hailing company does apologize for the incident. They also claim their driver has been reprimanded for not properly communicating with his passenger. Shouqi furthermore says they will cover the passenger’s medical expenses.

“Fabricated Facts”

On June 20, Ms. Gao wrote up a response to Shouqi’s statement, which she published on social media (@步步登高_乐). According to Gao, Shouqi’s statement contains many falsehoods and “fabricated facts.”

Ms. Gao talking to Chinese media about what really happened during the incident.

Gao says that the driver never told her anything about taking an alternative route. She also denies that Zhang called the emergency number after she had jumped out, and emphasizes that the local authorities have never issued any official statement nor made any conclusions about the matter. Shouqi has also never paid for her medical expenses, and have not released any recordings of the incident to Gao.

By Monday afternoon local time, Gao’s response was shared on Weibo over 23,000 times, receiving over 32,000 comments. The topic also reached the top trending topics on the social media platform.

The safety of female passengers making use of online car-hailing apps is a recurring topic of discussion in China, where several incidents involving Uber-like services triggered outrage among web users over the past few years.

The biggest case was the murder of a Chinese stewardess by a driver of the Didi Chuxing car-hailing app in 2018, which became one of the most discussed topics of that year. Shortly before going missing, the 21-year-old woman from Zhengzhou had texted her friend that the driver of the ride she had arranged was “acting strange.” Her body was found the next day. The driver’s body was retrieved from a river nearby.

The horrific case was followed by a second Didi murder of a 20-year-old woman in Wenzhou. The victim was on her way to a birthday party when she contacted a friend via text asking for help. She was later found to have been raped and killed in a mountainous area nearby. The 27-year-old driver was arrested. These two cases, which also brought other cases to light in which female passengers were abused by their drivers, sparked major public concerns about the safety of these online platforms.

In February of 2021, the Huolala case also made headlines in China: a 23-year-old woman named Che Shasha jumped out of the window of a moving van she rented via the ride-hailing firm Huolala when the driver, a man by the name of Zhou, had deviated from the intended route. Che, who was uncomfortable and scared, asked Zhou about the different routes multiple times, but he remained silent. When Che exited the vehicle via the passenger window, the driver reportedly did not do anything to stop her. The young woman died four days after the incident due to severe brain injury due to her fall.

These previous cases have heightened public awareness on the safety of female passengers, but some commenters also think it might have led to women being too scared when using ride-hailing apps.

Although most commenters support Ms. Gao and say that Shouqi should release the recordings to make the truth come out, there are also web users who say Gao is “delusional” and that her fears were ungrounded.

“If she really would’ve been murdered, people would say she wasn’t vigilant enough. Now, she was vigilant and people say she was being delusional. You just don’t have the empathy to understand the fear of female passengers,” one commenter writes.

Without any released recordings and no official police report, web users are still waiting for further developments in this case. If it would be up to Ms. Gao, it will soon be publicly revealed that she indeed was in danger. For now, she is seeking more media exposure so that “the bad guys will be punished for the injuries she suffered,” she told Chinese media reporters from her hospital bed.

We will update this story once more information comes out.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 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

China’s ‘Three Child Era’ Announcement Is Met with Banter and Backlash on Weibo

“The three-child policy is here, and it’s terrifying!”

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Four decades after the introduction of the one-child policy and five years after the start of a two-child policy, the Communist Party of China has now issued a statement on May 31 that all Chinese couples are allowed to have three children.

On May 31, after a meeting by the Politburo, Chinese authorities announced that all married couples would be allowed to have three children. The announcement comes over five years after an earlier law came into effect allowing Chinese couples to have a second child.

On Weibo, the topic immediately became top trending, with the Xinhua News hashtag page on the issue (#三孩生育政策来了#) going from 800 million views to 2.2 billion views within just an hour on Monday afternoon local time.

The announcement image by Xinhua.

An illustrated image showing three small children was shared on social media by Xinhua, saying: “The three-child policy is here! Actively responding to the aging population, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China convened a meeting on May 31 on the implementation of a policy allowing couples to have a third child and interrelated support measures.”

“They will have a brother or sister,” by China Youth Daily.

State media outlet China Youth Daily also published an image depicting two children playing on the floor, the text saying: “The three-child policy has come. They will have a brother or sister.”

Loosening policies and plummeting birth rates

Facing a rapidly aging population, China has been loosening its previous ‘one-child policy’ for years.

China initiated the one-child policy in 1979 with an aim to control the nation’s rapid population growth. It was successful in doing so: the government estimates that it prevented over 400 million extra births. The policy has also been blamed for innumerable cases of forced abortions and mandatory sterilizations.

Ethnic minorities or couples in rural areas were already allowed to have more than one child if their firstborn was a girl. Since 2013, couples were entitled to have a second child if they themselves were an only child. Richer families could also choose to have a second child and simply pay the high fine they would get for having another baby.

In October of 2015, the Communist Party of China (CPC) issued an official statement that all couples would be allowed to have two children. That law went into effect on 1 January 2016. Although the new policy led to a brief ‘baby boom’ – birth rates in China rose to their highest level since 2000 – the number still fell short of government estimation’s and the birth rates soon dropped again. In 2019, the birth rate of 10.48 per thousand marked the lowest number since 1949.

More kids, more stress?

When the shift from the one-child policy to a ‘two-child policy’ was announced in 2015, the expected change created a major buzz on social media. Although many people applauded the change in policy, there were also those who thought the end of the one-child policy came too late to counter the slow growth in population.

‘Many Chinese families cannot afford to have a second child,’ was one of the most recurring online comments at the time. For many Chinese couples, as only children, the everyday pressure of taking care of their elderly parents and carrying the financial burden for their own household was already very high. “We need more financial support from the government so that we can actually consider having a second child,” Chinese Weibo users said in 2015.

The introduction of a possible ‘three-child policy’ first became a trending topic on Chinese social media in 2018. In that year, Chinese bloggers and netizens denounced the potential measure in saying that an extension from a ‘two-child policy’ to a ‘three-child policy’ would add to the burden of Chinese women. Such a policy, they argued, would 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.

But it is not just about the financial burden and economic pressure. In a 2018 column for What’s on Weibo, writer Frankie Huang emphasized that China’s declining birth rates are often explained through an economic lens, while the social and historical background that has shaped the ways Chinese young parents think about family life today is perhaps more crucial in understanding people’s decision to postpone a second child or eschew one entirely. “We must take into account how the One Child Policy made the single child family normative by erasing the experience of having siblings from the lives of millions,” Huang wrote.

The ‘terrifying’ three child era

Looking back at the online sentiments that dominated Chinese social media before, it is perhaps unsurprising that many commenters on social media platforms in China today are somewhat skeptical about the introduction of a ‘three child policy’ (三孩生育政策).

A Weibo poll by Chinese state media outlet Xinhua asking “Are You Ready for the Three Child Policy?” was ridiculed by some when nearly 30,000 people replied “I am not considering it [three kids] at all”, with only a few hundred people indicating a more positive stance on the policy. The poll was apparently soon deleted.

Many people raise issues and concerns that come with having multiple children, including those related to the position of women in the employment market, the high cost of daycare, and children’s education.

One popular comment even suggested that China’s post-80s and post-90s generations deserve to get a medal if they actually had three children, which would mean that – as only children themselves – they would need to look after four elderly parents, three young children, and then continue working while facing a gradually delayed legal retirement age.

“The three-child policy is here, and it’s terrifying!” one popular female Weibo blogger (@Alex绝对是个妞儿) writes: “Many girls around me are already afraid to have one child, and I personally think having one is the limit – I didn’t expect the policy to be so ahead of its time! No kidding, if other supporting policies and guarantees are not in place, it will be very difficult to change women’s willingness to have children. It’s not that we don’t want to have children, it’s not that the policy doesn’t allow us to have children, it’s that once we have children, women’s lives will collapse and fall apart, and that’s what makes women not want to have children.”

“This just gives my parents more reasons to pressure me to find a partner,” others complained.

“This cracks me up. My monthly income is already barely enough to cover for me alone.”

Besides those expressing concerns, there are also many jokes circulating online, such as a supposed Durex ad saying: “I’ll go, you guys have fun.”

In light of the new announcement, an older interview with Chinese businessman Shih Wing-ching (施永青), chairman of the Centaline Group, caused some controversy online when he suggested that Chinese couples should only be allowed to use contraception after having two children. According to the real estate mogul, it would be an effective way to solve China’s declining fertility rates.

“It would be better for him to wear a condom around his brain to protect him from these bewildering thoughts,” one Weibo commenter suggested.

Another topic of public ridicule was the image announcing the ‘three child policy’ by Chinese state media outlet Xinhua for containing a typo, with the wrong character being used in the word 生育, “give birth to” (using 肓 instead of 育).

“Shouldn’t we eliminate illiteracy first before letting people have three kids?” one Weibo user jokingly commented.

The original announcement by Xinhua contained a typo.

Despite all the criticism and online jokes, there are also those who are genuinely happy that having three children is now allowed for all couples. Recurring comments praise the freedom that comes with the loosening of family planning policies: “If you want to have more children, you can. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”

One woman on Weibo wrote: “When the two-child policy was introduced, I soon became pregnant with my second child. Yesterday I was thinking if we could try to have a baby girl, and just like that, the ‘three-child policy’ is here!”

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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