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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 and Covid19

Part of the Problem: Anger in Lanzhou over Covid-Positive Nucleic Acid Testing Staff

Anger, distrust in Lanzhou after community staff discovered that those coming to test residents had not had a recent Covid test themselves.

Manya Koetse

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When the people who are testing the community for Covid are actually bringing the virus into the area.

There has been unrest in various places across China over the past few days, from students making their voices heard in Nanjing and Xi’an to people locally protesting against stringent Covid measures in Urumqi, Guangzhou, and beyond.

Sunday, November 27, saw the second night of protests in Shanghai. On Saturday, crowds gathered at the city’s Wulumqi Road (read here).

Meanwhile, Lanzhou city, Gansu Province, is trending on Chinese social media.

On November 26, people at a residential area (Biguiyuan Community 碧桂园小区) in Lanzhou’s Chengguan District found out that the local nucleic acid testing staff did not have a 24-hour period negative nucleic acid test result. The staff had come to run another round of door-to-door tests after the community had been in (semi-) lockdown for eight days.

After demanding that the nucleic acid staff members would get tested themselves, it was found that one of them tested positive for Covid.

One hashtag related to the case received over 400 million Weibo views on Sunday (#兰州通报核酸采样人员阳性#).

A video that went viral on social media showed community management staff talking to a local government official, saying:

You represent the government, let me tell you something. We have discovered a problem today. The medical staff that has come to do our nucleic acid tests, not a single one of them had a 24-hour nucleic acid certificate. I demand that qualified medical staff comes to test them, and that you come up with his work permit before testing us.”

The person testing positive is a 21-year-old staff member working at the Third People’s Hospital (第三人民医院) of Chengguan District.

District authorities issued a statement on Sunday saying that they would further investigate how a Covid-positive staff member could be sent into a community without recent test certificates.

But the statement did not help prevent online anger.

The incident is emblematic of China’s current Covid troubles, that have led to dissatisfaction, confusion, and frustrations in various places across China when it comes to Covid measures.

A stream of videos on Chinese social media show clashes between local anti-epidemic workers and residents in various places.

In Wuhan, a woman called out a worker who placed fences in front of the residential building. “Where are your credentials?!” she angrily asked.

Another person shouted at a local staff member at a locked down community who was just sitting and playing games on his phone. “Explain us what’s going on,” the resident said, and the worker replied: “My job is just to sit here.”

The lack of clarity on local Covid situations and guidelines mixed with a distrust in those who are managing the current epidemic is a toxic situation that is essentially at the root of the current outbreaks of unrest and protests in various places in China.

Many people commenting on the Lanzhou issue wonder what would have happened if the Biguiyuan Community manager had not detected that the nucleic acid test results of the anti-epidemic workers had not been updated. They might have spread Covid to many other communities.

One commenter from Guangdong wrote: “I don’t really get it: I just received a text message from my town asking me to do a nucleic acid, saying that I would be held legally responsible if I would spread [the virus], but I don’t even go out. So if I adhere to your request and go do the nucleic acid test and get infected because of it, will you bear the legal responsibility? Will I be compensated for the damage?”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse 

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Featured image by @导筒directube

 

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China and Covid19

Victory of Perseverance? Visions of China’s ‘Dynamic Zero’ Covid Future

Many commenters have a less rose-colored view of the future of ‘zero Covid’ than some of China’s opinion makers.

Manya Koetse

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While China is seeing the worst Covid outbreak in months and resentment is rising over strict lockdowns and ‘excessive’ Covid measures, Chinese political pundits and opinion leaders are painting a rosy picture of the future of China’s ‘zero Covid’ policy.

It is the Start of Winter (立冬) and China is seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases across the country.

There currently are approximately 40,000 confirmed Covid cases in the mainland, with the biggest outbreaks taking place in Guangdong, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang.

At the same time, frustrations over strict lockdowns and excessive anti-epidemic measures have been building recently, and there has been a lot of anger over a lack of emergency medical care for people in isolation in, among others, Ruzhou, Lanzhou, and Hohhot.

On Monday, November 7, political commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief of Global Times, commented on China’s ‘dynamic zero’ Covid policy. Hu does so more often – in September 2022 he also published a lengthy post about China’s epidemic prevention.

China’s zero Covid policy is all about the speedy detection of new cases, followed by a quick response to curb the spread of the virus immediately and bring the epidemic situation under control. Because it is an ongoing process, it is called ‘dynamic zero’ (动态清零), with cases being extinguished soon after they are detected and with the eventual goal of having zero new infections in society (社会面清零).

The former journalist Hu, whose posts and statements often go trending and influence public opinion, made a few noteworthy comments in his recent post.

Hu suggested that the strict lockdowns in some parts of China are just not sustainable and that cities should stop striving to reach complete elimination of Covid cases. Instead, he advocated for a more relaxed and local approach, but did point out that Chinese cities could perhaps get back to focusing on reaching “zero” cases in the summer of 2023 (“到了明年夏天,也许一些城市可以重新追求零感染”).

By adhering to a model where Chinese regions stay in complete control when it’s about the spread of the virus, China will have drastically fewer deaths than in the West and its ‘dynamic zero’ approach will be remembered as a historical, “world-renowned achievement,” according to Hu.

 

“If we can remain in overall control and can keep the number of deaths far lower than in the West (..) then our epidemic prevention will benefit all 1.4 billion Chinese people, and will shine throughout history!”

 

Early on in his post, Hu Xijin suggests that the goal of ‘zero Covid’ is not actually to reach zero cases, but to keep the Covid outbreak in China under control:

The ‘dynamic zero’ [policy] is not really about pursuing zero infections at all times, it is about continuing to keep the epidemic situation under control. Reaching absolutely zero infections should not be the goal of every city for this winter; by summer of next year, some cities can perhaps again pursue to have zero infections, but it is not realistic for this winter season. Thoroughly eliminating an especially active virus would exceed the basic level management capabilities in the majority of cities and the situation in Urumqi, Zhengzhou, and other cities shows that even if you carry out strict and lengthy lockdowns, the virus still continues to spread throughout the community.”

Hu Xijin suggests that Beijing is the number one city in China when it comes to efficiently implementing Covid measures and responding to new cases. Yet, even Beijing is now seeing a spike in new cases, so Hu’s reasoning is that if Beijing can’t even reach ‘zero’ Covid, then no other city can.

If ‘zero’ Covid is impossible, Hu implies, cities might as well be a bit more relaxed in their epidemic approach because the socio-economic cost of doing city-wide or district-wide lockdowns is so high, while the effects might be relatively minimal: Covid will still find a way. Hu writes:

Beijing hasn’t carried out a large-scale lockdown, and the economic and social life in the city has been the most relaxed of the nation. Lockdowns have all been done locally [small-scale], and as everyone saw, Beijing held its first marathon in three years yesterday. That’s another step forwards. When there are outbreaks in other cities, especially when cases are scattered, and cities want to reach ‘zero Covid,’ they can only do that through the method of wide-scale or even total static management. But even if it is done like that, it does not mean they can realize a total elimination of Covid cases this winter while the social and economic costs of pursuing a ‘zero Covid’ goal are actually too high. The reality across the country is that people are less and less willing to cooperate with area-wide static management [lockdowns]. Regardless of whether you look at it from the standpoint of public opinion or from that of the financial burden, it is not sustainable to go on like that.

Hu suggests that focusing on keeping infection rates low is more effective than maintaining a ‘zero’ Covid policy. By focusing on lower numbers instead of zero cases, cities can keep the burden on social and economic life low, while also avoiding an epidemic crisis. This basically is what ‘dynamic zero’ is all about.

Anti-epidemic workers waving a Chinese flag, posted via @漫长岁月

In the conclusion of his post, Hu calls China’s epidemic prevention a “world-renowned success” that has saved the lives of millions of people over the past three years:

Facing new circumstances, if we can maintain complete control, and can keep the number of deaths far lower than in the West while also safeguarding our economy and the order of social development, then our epidemic prevention – at every stage and in its entirety – and its achievements will benefit all 1.4 billion Chinese people, and will shine throughout history!

Hu Xijin’s lengthy post and rose-colored outlook on the future of Covid zero received over 11,000 ‘likes’, but clearly did not impress all of his readers. Some replied: “So you’re basically just explaining the concept of the zero Covid policy again?” “Beijing the most relaxed?” others wondered.

“Stop wide-scale nucleic acid testing!” some said, with others replying: “We can’t continue to blindly follow the zero Covid policy.” “Listen to the voices of the people.”

Another commenter replied: “If we still want to be practical and realistic, we must admit that zero Covid is impossible, and we can’t pay such a high price to go on a mission that will never end. We should revise the general policy and insist on controlling the scale, protecting lives, and preventing hospitalization.”

Some who replied did agree with Hu’s words, writing: “A world-renowned success: it highlights the necessity of unswervingly insisting on ‘dynamic zero’!”

 

“What must we hold on to? The dynamic Zero Covid policy! Let the West lie flat, because the pandemic will have serious repercussions for them.”

 

Hu Xijin is not the only Chinese opinion maker who is describing the country’s zero Covid strategy as one that will go down in history as a glorious victory.

In late October, a short video went viral on Twitter showing a Chinese businessman giving a speech in which he claimed China would come out of the pandemic as the winner since the West would be brought to its knees because of the long-term impact of the pandemic. He explicitly mentioned long Covid and its supposed devastating effects on the labor force in the West.

I can only say, you’d have to be stupid if you want to give up [lie flat] now. We definitely cannot give up now. What must we hold on to? The dynamic Zero Covid policy! Understand? Let the West not do anything [lie flat], because the pandemic will have serious repercussions for them. So we definitely cannot let it go. So as an ordinary consumer, an ordinary citizen, we cannot forget national humiliation. The people inside the system are much smarter and more advanced than we are. You do not get the basic picture at all. (..) Just do what you’re told. We will win. If the epidemic continues another ten years, we don’t need to fight anymore, the whole world will have fallen.”

The man speaking is Gu Junhui (顾均辉), a finance, business, and strategic positioning expert with a very small following of 336 fans on his Weibo account.

As Gu’s video was widely shared on Twitter, it also started circulating on Chinese social media, where the majority of commenters dismissed Gu Junhui as another self-proclaimed ‘expert’ riding his high horse: “Nobody is listening to this idiot.”

Others ridiculed him for such a stance, writing: “So China can finally win if the West dies out?!” Some even suggested that Gu was a comedian instead of a finance expert.

Despite the online banter, Gu’s vision of China’s dynamic zero Covid future is a recurring one in China’s online media sphere, where other bloggers and authors also measure China’s success through U.S. failures.

Blogger/author Lu Xiaozhou (@卢晓周) wrote on Weibo on November 8 that the U.S. will be drained out because it chose to “lie flat” and live together with Covid-19, a virus that is unpredictable and which scientists around the world still have not figured out.

He says that China, on the other hand, is maintaining a balance between social stability and economic development through its dynamic zero Covid policy.

According to Lu, it’s simple: dynamic zero Covid is “right” whereas coexisting with the virus is “wrong.”

 

“The dynamic zero Covid policy comes at a high price, and when we give up dynamic zero, we will welcome a big epidemic wave. No matter if it happens this year, next year, in five years’ time, in ten years’ time, or in fifty years’ time, that moment will eventually come.”

 

During a press conference Saturday, Chinese health officials stated that China would “unswervingly” stick to its zero Covid policy. A hashtag about the topic (#坚持动态清零总方针不动摇#) received 220 million views on Weibo.

In October of this year, Chinese Party newspaper People’s Daily (人民日报) already published an article titled “Dynamic Zero Is Sustainable and Must Be Adhered To” (“动态清零”可持续而且必须坚持”) (read more).

Nucleic acid testing, photo by @dotdotnews.

It is clear that many commenters have a less rose-colored view of the future of ‘zero Covid’ than some of the opinion makers.

One Zhejiang-based doctor named Gong Xiaoming with over 4,6 million followers on Weibo (@龚晓明医生) had a more sober expectation of the future:

I was prohibited from posting for three months last year after I commented on the epidemic, but I still want to speak my mind. The dynamic zero Covid policy comes at a high price and when we give up dynamic zero Covid, it means we will welcome a big epidemic wave. That moment in time, no matter if it happens this year, next year, in five years’ time, or in ten years’ time, or in fifty years’ time, it will eventually come. So the authorities in every region must ask themselves one question: when then moment comes, are we ready?

Dr. Gong continues:

The 1 per 1,000 mortality figure is backed by enough medical resources, and it will probably be higher when there is an instant influx of patients and we don’t have enough medical resources. What is even more important in relation to the mortality rate is: do we have enough intensive care beds? If we still have another year, then let us please use this precious time to strengthen the establishment of the ICUs at local hospitals, to set up respiratory intensive care units, and let use this time to purchase good mechanical ventilators and equipment, strengthen the staff team, especially the medical team, which is not something that can be done within a day or not even within a month. A month ago I paid a visit to a county town with 200,000 inhabitants and the county hospital did not have one single IC bed. This made me deeply concerned. Perhaps I’m overly anxious, and the government might already be taking these steps, but if regional leaders have the vision, please strengthen your local hospital’s intensive care medical departments. Our timeframe is getting shorter. In addition to the construction of ICU, there is also medication, vaccines and other issues that need to be considered.”

Dr. Gong uses graphs with data from Taiwan to support his story, showing an uptick of cases after Taiwan let go of its own ‘zero Covid’ policy in April of 2022.

Other voices also express similar visions on the future of dynamic zero in China, seeking for science-based prospects and realistic strategies: “I really hope that the authorities can provide timely and accurate information. The main point is not whether or not we should have the dynamic zero policy, but rather how we can go forward with dynamic zero on a scientific basis,” another popular blogger (@卢麒元) wrote.

Although Dr. Gong’s post was reposted hundreds of times, the comment section was not available at the time of writing (“抱歉,该内容暂时无法查看”).

Political commentator Hu Xijin should be able to appreciate Dr. Gong’s input. In September of this year, Hu argued that more Chinese experts should come forward with suggestions and views based on science in order for the online discourse to focus more on science and rationality rather than letting “discussions be dominated by loud voices on social media.”

 
By Manya Koetse

 

-Photo by Xiangkun ZHU on Unsplash
-Photo by Yun XU on Unsplash
– Photo by Guido Hofmann on Unsplash

 

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