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Storm of Criticism over Proposal to Lower China’s Legal Marriage Age to 18

National People’s Congress deputy Huang Xihua (黄细花) has called for lowering China’s legal marriage age, from 22 for men and 20 for women, to a minimum age of 18. On Weibo, many people are not happy about the proposal – with some finding it outright shocking.

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National People’s Congress deputy Huang Xihua (黄细花) has called for lowering China’s legal marriage age, from 22 for men and 20 for women, to a minimum age of 18. On Weibo, many people are not happy about the proposal – with some finding it outright shocking.

The topic “Legal Age for Marriage Lowered to 18” (#法定婚龄降到18岁#) became trending on Sina Weibo on March 4 after Huang Xihua (黄细花), a National People’s Congress deputy, called for China’s legal age for marriage to be lowered to 18 during China’s Two Sessions.

According to Sina’s social media channel “People’s Topics” (@全民话题), Huang argues that lowering the legal age of marriage is not necessarily to promote early marriage, but to give more rights to young people.

In 2012, Huang already proposed to change China’s marriage law, something which also triggered controversy at the time. The current marriageable age in China is 22 for men, 20 for women.

 

“If you want people to have more babies, just cut off the country’s internet after 8 pm.”

 

On Weibo, many netizens are not happy about Huang’s proposal. Some even say they find it “shocking”, and are afraid that such a measure will negatively affect the status of women in Chinese society and increase the nation’s divorce rates.

“Won’t this lead to a drop in the percentage of women with a higher education?”, some wonder.

Many others have similar worries. As one person writes: “Lowering the age of marriage will lead to more young people taking wrong steps in life. Especially for women; getting married at a young age and having children will lead to fewer women pursuing higher education.” Others also think that 18-year-olds are not yet experienced enough to get married.

“This is all just about increasing China’s birth rates,” one person comments: “But if you want people to have more babies, just cut off the internet across the country after 8 pm – that’ll work too.”

China is currently facing demographic challenges as society is aging. Although the implementation of the “Two Child Policy” in October 2015 caused an increase in birth rates, the figure still falls short of government’s estimations for the population to reach 1.42 billion by 2020, and might be too low to balance the consequences of the aging society and the shrinking workforce.

Earlier this year Chinese state media hinted at legalizing surrogacy to increase birth rates, something which greatly angered many people on social media who felt that women were treated as “breeding machines.”

In 2016, China also canceled the ‘late marriage leave‘, the 30-day paid leave when getting married over the age of 25. The paid leave was introduced at the time of the one-child policy to encourage people to postpone marriage and childbirth (“晚生晚育”) in order to help control China’s population growth.

 

“The safety of the air we breath is much more relevant than how old we are when we marry.”

 

There are also many people who don’t see the relevancy of the proposal. “This is not important at all!”, one netizen says: “What is much more important is to pay attention to the problems of the people – to focus on the safety of what we eat, what we drink, and of the air that we breathe. That’s much more relevant than how old we are when we marry.”

“It makes no sense. What 18-year-old has the financial capacity to get married anyway?”, another commenter says.

According to the South China Morning Post, Huang Xihua also proposed to scrap the two child policy and allow couples to have as many children as they want to increase the population. This proposal, remarkably, received much less attention on Chinese social media.

This photo of a mother cat and her kittens was used by Sina News when writing about Huang’s proposal to scrap the ‘two child policy.’

Huang Xihua is also an active user of Weibo (@黄细花), where she is currently facing quite some backlash on her home page, with people criticizing her proposals and some even wondering why Huang is in the National People’s Congress at all.

“How can a person with such an IQ represent us?”, one person says. “She just wants to be famous,” some say.

What about the minimum age for marriage in other countries? In neighboring countries South Korea and Japan, the legal age to get married is 18 for boys and 16 for girls. In the UK, the legal marriageable age is 16, while in some states in America, it is even legal for 14-year-olds to get married. As this chart shows, China globally has the highest minimum age for marriage for men (22).

In China’s Marriage Law of 1950, the age requirement for marriage was 20 for men and 18 for women. This was revised in the Marriage Law of 1980 to 22 for men and 20 for women to promote population control.

Amid a storm of criticism, there are also some who support the proposition: “I’m in favor of this proposal. If the legal minimum marriage age is 18, it doesn’t mean you have to get married at 18. In the end it’s just a personal choice.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

Chinese State Media Launch ‘Hold Your Mother’s Hand’ Campaign with Xi Jinping at Forefront

“Go back home often and hold your mother’s hand, as Xi Jinping does too.”

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With the online ‘hold your mother’s hand’ campaign, various Chinese state media stress the idea of ‘homecoming’ and the importance of family ties. President Xi Jinping is represented as the perfect ‘family man’ leader.

During the Lunar New Year Holiday, the ‘coming home’ theme is always an important one on Chinese social media. For many people, the Spring Festival is the only time of the year to reunite with their families, something which is annually highlighted by media and social media users.

This year, however, it seems that Chinese state media outlets such as People’s Daily, China Daily, and CCTV have a special focus on the ‘homecoming’ theme. Besides subjects such as ‘China’s new era’, the Belt & Road Initiative, and the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening-up policy, the idea of people ‘coming home’ and being home in China was an important subject woven throughout the 2018 CCTV New Year Gala last Thursday.

The New Year Gala, that is China’s biggest live televised event, is produced by the CCTV and is an important opportunity for Chinese authorities to propagate political ideas and concepts.

This time, the show featured a comical sketch about a Taiwanese couple in the PRC, which was literally called ‘homecoming’ (回家). A special part of the show featured the ‘homecoming’ of a ‘national treasure’ painting to the Palace Museum. A public service ad broadcasted during the show also stressed the idea that there is ‘no place like home.’

Comical skit during the 2018 Gala focused on ‘homecoming’.

But the ‘homecoming’ idea is also propagated beyond the Gala, as various online campaigns are now themed around ‘homecoming’ and family ties. One of them, featuring an image of Xi Jinping and his mother, was published by various official state media Weibo accounts.

“How long has it been since you spoke to your mum?”

On February 19, People’s Daily started its “Hold Mother’s Hand” (#牵妈妈的手#) social media campaign by posting a video about urban white-collar workers who are “too busy” to visit their mother.

The video first shows images of people at working, going into meetings, and sleeping at their desk. The voiceover says: “You want a stable job. You want to succeed in life. Be acknowledged by others. You want to stay ahead of others, or at least, you don’t wanna fall behind. You want a better future than the hard times in the present. You’re busy, super busy. (..)”

The video then shifts to images of several older women, waiting by the phone, or sitting at the kitchen table. “How long has it been since you spoke to your mother about what’s on your mind?” the voiceover asks: “How long has it been since you had a taste of your mother’s cooking? Or since you went together on a walk? How long has it been since you held her hand?”

Then we see a woman at her desk, scrolling through her phone and looking at a picture of Xi Jinping walking hand in hand with his mother, with a Tang poem depicted beside it and read aloud by Xi (“慈母手中線,遊子身上衣”). The first part of the poem loosely translates as “The threads coming from a caring mother’s hand, are in the clothes of a traveling son.”

The smiles appear on people’s faces when they pick up the phone to call their mother and then go to visit her. “Go home for Spring Festival. Give your mum a hug, give yourself some warmth,” the final slogan says.

‘Daddy Xi’ as the “People’s Leader”

The campaign video was promoted online through the “Hold Your Mum’s Hand” hashtag #牵妈妈的手#, which had received 500 million views on Weibo by Monday night.

The photo of President Xi Jinping holding the hand of his mother, Qi Xin, was used in the campaign ‘profile’ photo. This image reiterates the idea of Xi as the ‘People’s Leader’ (“人民领袖”), an idea that was recently also propagated through another video by People’s Daily and CCTV, as described by Sinocism editor-in-chief Bill Bishop in “The People’s “Leader” Xi Jinping Gets A New Propaganda Title.”

New York Times reporter Chris Buckley (@ChuBailiang) noted that the new propaganda about Xi Jinping promotes the term “family-state realm” (家国天下), with Xi as the “father of the nation.”

President Xi Jinping is also nicknamed “Xi Dada” or “Big Daddy Xi” because of his approachable and friendly image (although that moniker was banned from Chinese media in 2016).

Strong nation built on strong family ties

It is not the first time that ‘homecoming’ and taking care of one’s parents is an important subject in state media propaganda; not just for the sake of promoting the image of China as a strong nation built on strong family ties, but also to actually encourage children to look after their parents.

China faces an aging population, and because of the One-Child Policy and the huge migration from rural to urban areas, there is a problem in providing sufficient care for China’s senior citizens. It is one of the reasons why children are spurred to visit their parents often – it was even stipulated in a 2013 law.

“Now People’s Daily is also encouraging us to show filial piety,” one commenter wrote.

But there are also people who were seemingly affected by the campaign: “My mum is the best mother in the world. She’s invested so much in me. Now I feel so guilty,” one netizen said.

“I’m happy I could go home and see my parent’s this Chinese New Year,” another person commented below the video: “Their hair has turned white, but we get along better now – our bond is stronger than before.”

There are also commenters, however, who have different – more practical -concerns on the issue: “My mum doesn’t like holding my hand. She thinks it’s too mushy and says it feels like she’s holding a rat.”

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 Arts & Entertainment

CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2018 (Live Blog)

It’s time for the CCTV 2018 New Year’s Gala – follow the highlights and the low points here.

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It is time for the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, one of the most-watched, most-discussed, and most mocked lived television events in the world, taking place on the Lunar New Year’s Eve. What’s on Weibo discusses the ins & outs of the 2018 edition and the social media frenzy surrounding it in this live blog.

The biggest live televised event in the world, the CCTV New Year’s Gala, also known as the Spring Festival Gala or Chunwan (春晚), is a true social media spectacle. On February 15th 2018, the 36th edition of the 4-hour-long live production is taking place.

The show, that is organized and produced by the state-run CCTV since 1983, is not just a way for millions of viewers to celebrate the Lunar New Year (除夕); it is also an important opportunity for the Communist Party to communicate official ideology to the people and to showcase the nation’s top performers.

Watch the live stream here on What’s on Weibo (if you have no access to YouTube, please check the CCTV live stream here).

What’s on Weibo provides you with the ins & outs of the 2018 Gala and its social media frenzy, with updates before, during and after the show. Follow our liveblog below (we recommend you keep your browser open – you’ll hear a ‘beep’ when updated). (Note: this live blog is now closed, thank you!).

By Manya Koetse, with contributions via WeChat from Boyu Xiao, Diandian Guo, and Tim Peng

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

If you enjoy What’s on Weibo and support the way we report the latest trends in China, we would appreciate your donation. It does not need to be much; we can use every penny to help pay for the upkeep, maintenance, and betterment of this site. See this page for more information.

©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. ©2014-2017

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