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Filial Piety, Where Art Thou? Debate on Care for Elderly Parents Reignited

An elderly couple forced to sleep outside their son’s door has reignited the debate over how China’s young cares for its elderly. As of May 1st, Shanghai residents who do not regularly visit their parents will be punished by getting black marks on their credit scores.

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An elderly couple forced to sleep outside their son’s door has reignited the debate over how China’s younger generations care for their elderly parents. As of May 1st, Shanghai residents who do not regularly visit their parents will be punished by getting black marks on their credit scores.

For 77-year-old Zhu Sulan and her husband, life is anything but peaceful. The elderly couple has been sleeping in the hallway outside their son’s apartment for days, after he refused to take them in. In what can be termed an absurd situation, the son has been missing from his home and apparently stayed elsewhere until his parents go away. In the meanwhile, the frail couple has set up their temporary shelter in the hallway, refusing to move until their son takes them in.

The old couple’s misfortune began when their eldest son (aged 26) lost his house due to demolition. Mrs. Zhu and her husband were then asked to stay with their other son. Since their arrival, their son’s refusal to take them in has left them with no other option than to stay outside his door. The couple has four sons and one daughter who all turn a blind eye despite knowing the condition their parents are in. Additionally, according to Shanghaiist‘s Kitty Lai, Mrs. Zhu revealed that their children have been engaged in a bitter dispute over ownership of three apartments registered in their parent’s names.

Filial piety? Never heard of it!

In the recent past, a growing number of incidents have highlighted cases of neglect and lack of respect from children towards their elderly parents in China. A Chinese farmer named Chen Shoutian from Guanyun County in Jiangsu province, came under attack in 2012 for keeping his 100-year-old mother in a pigsty for two years.

sad_momMum in the trunk of the car, via Shanghaiist.

A certain Mr. Liu was branded ‘Public enemy No.1‘ in 2015 for putting his old mother in the trunk of the car to give his son more room to stretch his legs in the backseat. It was revealed that the car was bought by the old lady for her son with her life savings.

The virtue of filial piety

For a country that still values Communism, China has managed to preserve many of its old traditions and cultural practices, chief among them being the virtue of filial piety. Xiao (孝) or filial piety, a virtue of respect for one’s father, elders, and ancestors, is an important part of the Confucian vision of societal harmony. According to Confucian tradition, the Five Relations that are central to society are those:

• Between the ruler and the people
• Husband and wife
• Father and son
• Elder brother and younger brother
• Older friend and younger friend.

These hierarchical relationships have set the precedent on which relations and communities in China were built. Along with a changing China, these patterns are now changing too.

State-led filial piety campaign

China’s rapid urbanization has altered structures of the traditional joint family unit. China’s younger generations are dynamic, ambitious and ready to leave their hometowns for greener pastures. The PRC’s large-scale rural-to-urban migration has led to a growing number of Chinese elderly who are not supported or cared for by their children.

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Statistics from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2013 estimated that China had around 200 million Chinese over the age of 60 years, accounting for 14.8% of the total population. By 2050, the projection shows a rise up to 438 million or one-third of the total population.

Following China’s growing problem of an ageing population, the government passed the law called “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People” law in 2013. According to New York Times, the law has nine clauses laying out the duties of children and their obligations to tend to the “spiritual needs of the elderly”. Along with some vague measures, concrete steps have also been initiated like providing a basic living and medical care for the elderly through the pension and healthcare scheme.

Already since 2011, the Party has been making efforts to promote the values of filial piety; the “special committee of filial piety” then announced its training program aimed to help 1 million children between the ages of 4 and 6 learn about filial piety through stories and games. Volunteers would check the children’s performance over three years to ensure they internalized the values. The programme caused a lot of commotion with some voicing support for the training, and others dismissing it as a silly exercise that overemphasized parent’s authority and turned children into robots.

The state-led campaign for filial piety was taken to the next level in April 2016 when Shanghai’s Municipal People’s Congress announced new regulations to encourage people to frequently visit elderly parents and ensure they are cared for; Shanghai residents who fail to visit their elderly parents regularly may have their names added to a credit blacklist that could make it difficult for them to apply for jobs and loans, and even impact their eligibility for welfare. The regulations will take effect on May 1st of this year.

Time will tell if the official promotion of filial values will really help solve the issue of changing dynamics in China’s elderly care today.

“What if your parents are abusive alcoholics?”

The topic became a point of discussion on Chinese social media. Most netizens disagreed that children should keep on visiting their parents no matter the circumstances. “If your parents did not look after you when they were younger,” one netizen comments: “you can now treat them the same, right?”.

“But what if your parents are abusive alcoholics? What if they forced their daughter into marriage because of their own gambling debts? What if she suffered long-term sexual abuse by the father?” one other Weibo user wondered.

Others complained about the fact that there was simply no time to see their family: “Only for Chinese New Year’s we get 15 days off, and then we are supposed to see our parents and enjoy our holiday and for the rest there is no other free time to do anything but working overtime, working overtime, working overtime!”

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Another Weibo user clearly opposes the new law: “This society obviously does not have the right social environment for the joy and happiness of family life, but still the government requires people to act this way. I really don’t know why the government always wants to oppose to what people want; our lives are already tiresome, and not very free, okay ? Why would you add to this by implementing some strange regulations that further limit us?”

– By Mahalakshmi Ganapathy

Weibo comments & editing by Manya Koetse.
Image by Qianzhan News.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

About the author: Mahalakshmi Ganapathy is a Shanghai-based Sinologist-to-be, pursuing her graduate degree in Chinese Politics at East China Normal University. Her interests include Sino-India comparative studies and Chinese political philosophy.

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China Health & Science

‘Cecolin’ Is Here: First Made-in-China HPV Vaccine Priced at US$47

China is the third country in the world to produce its own HPV vaccine, and it is cheaper than its foreign counterparts.

Manya Koetse

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While Chinese media praise Cecolin for being China’s first domestically produced HPV vaccine, Chinese social media users are more concerned with its price, quality, and availability.

In the first week of 2020, the first China-made HPV vaccine was approved by Chinese drug regulators. The domestically produced HPV vaccine became a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media. On Weibo alone, the topic received more than 580 million views since early January.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection with the specific viral infection that causes cervical cancer. The earliest HPV vaccine, ‘Gardasil’ by American multinational pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., first became available in 2006. Along with Pfizer’s ‘Prevnar 13’ – the vaccine deployed for the prevention of pneumococcal pneumonia – Gardasil is among the world’s best-selling vaccines.

With the introduction of the first Chinese HPV vaccine, the virtual monopoly position of Merck’s vaccine might now change as the Chinese vaccination is entering the market.

The Chinese vaccine is named ‘Cecolin’ (馨可宁), and was co-developed by drug maker Innovax (万泰沧海生物技术) and Xiamen University. It is intended for girls and women aged 9-14 (two shots needed) and 15-45 (three shots needed). According to CGTN, some 8 million shots will be produced in China in 2020.

Gardasil and Cecolin are not entirely the same, however. Gardasil is a so-called quadrivalent vaccine, which targets four different antigens (HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18), while Cecolin is a bivalent vaccine only protecting against HPV 16 and 18 types, the two most common viruses leading to cervical cancer. Another type of HPV vaccine is the nonavalent kind, the Gardasil 9 vaccine, preventing diseases caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.

Nearly all sexually active people will be exposed to HPV at some point in their life, and if girls and women are given the vaccine before any natural infection with HPV, the vaccines have been shown to protect against pre-cancer of the cervix. Males can also get the quadrivalent and nonavalent HPV vaccines to protect against genital warts, anal precancers, or the spread of HPV to sexual partners.

While Chinese media emphasize the fact that China is now the third country in the world, after US and UK, to succeed in producing its own HPV vaccine, one of the topics receiving the most attention on Chinese social media is the price of the Cecolin vaccine.

Cecolin is currently priced at 329 yuan (US$47) per shot, which is considerably cheaper than the approximate $250 per dose of the Gardasil vaccine in the United States.

The nonavalent vaccine costs about 1300 yuan or more per shot in China ($186+), with the quadrivalent Gardasil being priced at approximately 800 yuan per shot ($115), and the imported bivalent vaccine costing 600 yuan per dose ($86).

Weibo user shares receipt of 9-valent vaccine, 1338 yuan per dose.

Many Weibo commenters praise the arrival of the Chinese vaccine and its relatively low price. A complete vaccination programme would now only be either 660 or 1000 yuan ($94/$143, depending on needing two or three shots) instead of $260 or more.

“Whoa that’s cheap!” some commenters write, with others saying: “This makes it possible for the poorer girls to get their shots.”

But there is also a lot of discussion on the quality of the vaccine, and whether the bivalent vaccine is effective enough (for clarity -the two HPV types the vaccine protects against causes 84.5% of all cervical cancers in China). Some Weibo users say they would still like to get the more expensive nonavalent vaccine instead – even if they will need to spend around 4000 yuan ($570) on their completed shots.

Other commenters are most concerned with the general availability of HPV vaccines in China, as there is still a shortage of vaccinations.

The imported HPV vaccine was issued 1,46 million times in 2017, going up to 7 million shots in 2018 and 8,7 million in 2019. On Weibo, some commenters say they have previously gone to Hong Kong to get their shot.

One user from Nanjing writes: “I made an appointment for my site and needed to wait for four months, I finally got it. I don’t want to wait around for the domestic shot to become available here.”

A Weibo user from Liaoning is appreciative that those who want to have the vaccine now have more options: “If you can financially afford it, you can choose the nonavalent vaccines, if you can’t afford it, you can get the quadrivalent or bivalent ones.”

Starting from May of 2020, Cecolin will be available at community hospitals across various regions in China.

By Manya Koetse
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©2020 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 & Science

40-Year-Old Woman Completes Shanghai Marathon While 8 Months Pregnant

Pregnant marathon runner Lili clashes with Chinese traditional attitudes towards women who are expecting a baby.

Jessica Colwell

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A 40-year-old woman named Li Lili (黎莉莉) became news in China after she ran the Shanghai Marathon last Sunday while 32 weeks pregnant, completing the race in five hours and 17 minutes.

This was the third marathon Li has run during her pregnancy. She ran the first two during week eight (with a time of 3:54:43) and week 22 (with a time of 4:47:58) of her pregnancy.

Lily is an avid runner, having completed 62 marathons during her lifetime. Her story went viral on Weibo under the hashtag “8 Months Pregnant 40-Year-Old Woman Runs Marathon” (#40岁孕妇怀胎8月跑完全马#), which has received over 200 million reads at time of writing.

[Li has run three marathons during her pregnancy, one in each trimester.]

Her story has ignited debate across Weibo this week regarding the merits and dangers of vigorous exercise during pregnancy. In interviews with the press, however, Li remained defiant in the face of her critics.

“For many people, they are worried about this because they don’t understand it,” she told video news site Pear Video in an interview.

“Many people have told me it is dangerous. They criticize me, just like they criticized Chen Yihan,” she says, referring to Taiwanese actress Ivy Chen (陈意涵) who faced fierce online criticism after posting pictures of herself running while five months pregnant in 2018.

Actress Ivy Chen’s controversial Weibo post from 2018, showing her running 5 kilometers while five months pregnant.

“But most of these critics have never even been pregnant,” Li continued: “The fact is, I did this because I have a very deep understanding of my own body. I’ve run over 60 marathons, I am an extremely good runner. I’ve run a marathon in 3:28, which is considered an excellent time even for talented athletes, even for men. I have my own training methods, I’ve been training for a very long time, and have carefully prepared for these marathons.”

The reactions to Li’s story online have ranged from enthusiastic praise to outright condemnation.

“Wow! I admire how strong she is! It is said that each person knows what is right for them in their own heart. It’s none of your business what she does with this unborn hero!” gushes the most popular comment on Pear Video’s Weibo post about the story.

But another popular comment argues that marathon running is actually inappropriate for Chinese women in general: “Foreigners running marathons is fine, but this is not for Chinese women. Pregnant Chinese women running marathons is equivalent to them not caring for their children.”

The results from a poll put out by Chengdu Economic Daily so far show the majority of readers do not oppose Li’s decision to run a marathon, with 54,000 choosing the option “One case cannot represent the whole, it will vary from individual to individual” and 38,000 choosing “Support, if the mother’s body is strong enough.” Only 17,000 chose the option “Oppose, pregnant women should not engage in vigorous exercise.”

“What do you think of a 40-year-old woman running a marathon while 8 months pregnant?” asks a Weibo poll by Chengdu Economic Daily.

Some comments on the poll argued that Li was irresponsible to take part in a marathon, in case something did go wrong: “Problems come up when you least expect them. If it’s just you running on your own, that’s one thing. But this is a group race. I can’t say if it’s right or wrong, but it could bring a lot of trouble to other people.”

But the majority of popular comments expressed outright support and admiration, or at the very least opposition to Li’s critics, telling them to mind their own business.

The support for Li’s decision appears to fly in the face of Chinese traditional attitudes towards pregnant women. The list of dos and don’ts for Chinese mothers-to-be is long and complex, ranging from the bizarre (no eating/drinking dark foods so as not to affect the baby’s skin color) to the more common (avoiding shellfish).

The belief that pregnant mothers should avoid exertion is high on the list, extending even to the month after birth.

But despite these strong traditions, Li’s strength and determination have clearly inspired new support for expectant mothers who wish to continue an active lifestyle while pregnant.

Also read: ‘Sitting the Month’ – a Gift or Torture?

Also read: Bad Mom To Be? Pregnant Woman Intentionally Trips 4-Year-Old Boy in Baoji

By Jessica Colwell
Follow @whatsonweibo

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.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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