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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 Environment

“Dreaming of Warmth” – China’s Anti-Coal Measures Leave Villagers out in the Cold

While coal heating is being banned, many villagers are left in the cold as they have no access to electric or gas heating systems.

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Chinese authorities are on a crusade against the burning of low-quality coal in the north of China this winter. The switch from coal to natural gas in the northern regions is meant to reduce air pollution. But for those with no access to gas or electric heating, the measures mean that they are left in the cold while temperatures are dropping.

Recent measures by the Chinese government that limit coal burning in the winter in northern China, while encouraging the use of natural gas, are aimed at improving the country’s air quality.

But as many people – mainly villagers and migrant workers – in China’s northern provinces such as Shanxi or Hebei still depend on coal for their residential heating, and with natural gas resources both scarce and increasingly costly, some households or schools simply have no option but to endure the cold.

 

“This is a predicament that northerners have not encountered before: people are prohibited to burn coal, but natural gas is expensive and scarce.”

 

On WeChat, an article about the situation by ‘Brother News’ (新闻哥), a well-read news blog, has been widely shared since December 6. The article was pulled offline on Thursday.

It’s December and winter is here. But the heating, that is often envied by many people in the South, has not arrived as scheduled. In Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, and other regions in the North, people are caught in cold circumstances as they are unable to warm up [their houses].

This is a predicament that the northerners have not encountered before: people are prohibited to burn coal, while natural gas is expensive and often limited, which means that they cannot use it – even if they want to. Some people complain that they can’t sleep at night because of the freezing cold, while here in Beijing, some hundred kilometers away, my problem is that I can’t sleep at night because the central heating is too hot.”

The real situation at hand, which I learned about from dozens of readers, is really heartwrenching.”

In the article, ‘Brother News’ reports about a small kindergarten and primary school in a village in Shanxi where the use of coal heating is no longer allowed this winter – the coal heating systems were already demolished last summer. But the building, that only has three classrooms, cannot be supplied with gas heating. The use of electric heating is also impossible, as it trips off the electricity.

In order to stay warm, the school can only burn wood alcohol (methyl alcohol) as a last resort. “But that costs us about 400 to 600 dollars a day [3000-4000 yuan],” one of the kindergarten teachers said.

 

“I long for blue skies and smog-free air, but if it means that so many people have to freeze out there, I don’t want it.”

 

Teachers have started to take their children outside during school time, as it is warmer there than inside the building when the sun is out. But as the temperatures are dropping below 1 degree celsius, the situation is getting more difficult – especially for the teachers and the older children who also live in the on-campus dorm rooms.

For people who do have access to natural gas heating, the costs are often too high. If a household would be heated 24 hours a day, the minimal costs are 60-70 yuan (±9-10$) per day. Considering the monthly and seasonal costs for heating, people would have to spend thousands on heating, something which is simply unattainable for many ordinary people with a moderate monthly income.

On Weibo, one news account based in Binzhou (Shandong), writes that gas boilers have already been installed in some parts of the town, but that there is no gas yet. “And we also cannot burn coal, so now we just have to endure the cold.”

The ‘Brother News’ article concludes that people do want to support the transition from coal to gas that will reduce air pollution, but that it is difficult to support these measures when there are people suffering from the freezing cold: “I long for blue skies and smog-free air,” he writes: “But if it means that so many people have to sacrifice their warmth and freeze out there, I don’t want it.”

“I also don’t hope,” the article says: “that we have to rely on our dreams to keep ourselves warm.”

 

“Same thing, different era.”

 

Authorities have now responded to the freezing predicament facing many households and public buildings in northern China by allowing the use of coal to those who have no access to electric or gas heating.

In an “urgent notice” (“特急件”) the environment ministry said that “villages that have not converted to gas may still use coal for heating, or other substitute fuels,” as reported by Financial Times. The ministry also called for a “stable gas supply” to areas in the northern regions that had already converted to gas.

Image of coal stove shared on Weibo, text says: “Coal stoves are about to become history!”

Many people on Weibo are skeptical about the notice. “What about the coal furnaces that have already been taken away,” one person asks on Weibo: “Will they be brought back? (..) And what about the people who have already been freezing cold for a month, how can they be compensated?”

Other people also wonder about all the coal heating systems that have already been removed from homes and buildings, asking if people should now install new ones to keep themselves warm this winter.

There are more people on Weibo who criticize the anti-coal measures, comparing it to measures taken by the Chinese regime from 1958 to 1962. One netizen from Shanxi writes: “Isn’t this just like the people’s communes during the Great Leap Forward? In those days the pots and pans of people were smashed, and they were told to have their meals in the communes where they went hungry. Now you no longer allow farmers to have their coal furnaces and tell them to use gas while the installations are not properly set up, letting them freeze. It’s the same thing, it’s just a different era.”

There are also those who just care about the temperature in their room: “I have been without heating for five days. It 10 degrees [celsium] in my house. I’m slowly starting to freeze out here.”

For many, the urgent notice has not brought the warmth back yet. “The only way to keep myself warm is by trembling,” one netizen writes.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

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

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

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China Digital

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s New Online Campaign: “Anti-Corruption” Gifs & Video

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is propagating old ideas in new ways.

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Five years after launching its “Eight-point Regulation,” the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) turns to Weibo and WeChat to propagate its core values amongst Chinese netizens.

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI/中纪委), the highest internal-control institution of the Communist Party of China that enforces internal regulations and combats corruption and wrongdoings in the Party, has been remarkably active on social media this week.

Not only did the CCDI issue a set of 16 GIF images for netizens to use; they also launched a new public ad campaign reiterating their “Eight-point Regulation” (八项规定), a set of regulations aimed at instilling more discipline among Party members.

The rules were issued on December 4th, 2012, and relate to how Party members “should improve their work style in eight aspects, focusing on rejecting extravagance and reducing bureaucratic visits, meetings and empty talk,” according to Xinhua (2012).

 
8 Rules, 16 Gifs
 

On December 3rd, the CCDI issued its set of 16 gifs. The images, that are meant to share as downloadable ‘stickers’ on WeChat, are all themed around regulations to fight corruption and malfeasance in the Party.

The images warn against things such as the private use of cars meant for official business, or using public money for festive dinners and drinking.

The WeChat stickers became a hot topic on Chinese social media this weekend, although many netizens did not necessarily appreciate the latest addition to the wide collection of WeChat gifs.

“You can use them among your 80 million [Party members], the commoners have no use for them!”, some wrote. “What are the normal people supposed to do with them?” others wondered. Many comments on the stickers were soon taken offline.

 
“No Need to Spend Your Free Nights at Social Parties”
 

The CCDI is increasingly using digital media to communicate its core values to a large online audience. On Monday, Chinese state media also shared a short public ad campaign video by the CCDI.

It reflects on how the “Eight-point Regulation” have “changed people’s lives.”

The introduction text says:

You do not have to spend your after work hours on social events – coming home after drinking alcohol to find your child and wife fast asleep, leaving nobody to talk to. You do not have to spend you half-monthly wages on gifts to people who you barely even know. You do not have to surrender to the unwritten rules. In five years, the eight provisions have changed China – changing the lives of you and me.”

The voice-over in the video suggests that people now have more time to read books, work out, and spend time with family. The campaign’s main message is: “You can, but you don’t have to.”

Although the video was praised by some, there were also many who said its message might fall on deaf ears: “These ‘unwritten rules’ are not about Chinese bureaucracy, they are about Chinese culture,” some pointed out. “If you don’t give presents, you won’t succeed.”

 
Propaganda 3.0
 

Over the past few years, Chinese authorities are increasingly using social media as an important channel to share propaganda. This is often done in creative ways.

Information about important events and state visits of Chinese president Xi Jinping, for example, is often propagated online by means of a gif or short animated film, with Xi as a cartoon figure.

‘Cartoon commentary’ from China Daily 2016: Xi’s Europe-Asia Tour.

Both the One Belt, One Road initiative and the 19th Party Congress saw many gifs, cartoon, videos, rap songs, and even online mobile games that conveyed the government’s main message on core Party aims and values.

With the Chinese online population growing every day, and a great majority of this online population using WeChat and Weibo for daily communication and news-checking, social media have become an effective channel for propaganda in China today.

By Manya Koetse

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

©2017 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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