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More Wombs, More Babies? China Hints at Legalizing Surrogacy to Increase Birth Rates

A state media article that calls for a loosening of surrogacy bans has stirred controversy among Chinese Weibo users.

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Chinese Party newspaper People’s Daily published an article on Friday that featured older couples struggling with infertility and called for a loosening of surrogacy bans. The article immediately stirred controversy among Chinese Weibo users.

January 2016 officially marked the end of China’s contentious one-child policy of 36 years that made it illegal for couples to give birth to more than one baby, implemented to slow the country’s population growth rate. Since the end of the policy, couples of which at least one of the pair is an only child are legally permitted to have a second child.

Unsurprisingly, 2016 saw the highest birth rate in a century. With 17.86 million of births in total, there was an increase of 7.9% in childbirths compared to the year before according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission.

 

“Doctors suggest to relax existing surrogacy bans while still preventing commercialization of the practice.”

 

However, 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. By 2050, 370 million people in China are expected to be aged 65+ – it is often called a “demographic crisis.”

When dropping the one child policy, Chinese authorities also halted a plan to ban surrogate motherhood. Since 2001, the Ministry of Health laid out rules that made it illegal for medical staff to offer surrogacy services, and in 2015 there were official plans to completely curb surrogate pregnancies.

The timing of the reversal of the surrogacy ban was ambiguous, especially because it was called “unprecedented” for the Chinese government to reverse a draft law after it has already been publicized.

On Friday, an article in Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily enraged Chinese netizens as it focused on the topic of second pregnancies in older couples and suggested a legalization of surrogacy to give couples more opportunities to have a (second) child.

It says:

“In the ninety million families that are qualified to have the second child in China, 60% of women are over 35 years old and 50% are over 40. The fertility rate is obviously going down because women are getting older, and the average age for a woman to have a last pregnancy is generally around the age of 40. Therefore, doctors suggest to relax existing surrogacy bans while still preventing commercialization of the practice.”

Surrogacy often comes up when there are fertility problems or other reasons; a surrogate mother can carry the baby for a couple through artificial insemination of the father’s sperm, or, if possible, through IVF.

 

“They have totally gone mad! Surrogacy was illegal and now it is being promoted to increase birth rates!”

 

Perhaps uncoincidentally, one of the most controversial sketches of the CCTC Chinese New Year Gala last week focused on an older couple of which the woman was not able to conceive. The sketch also mentions the possibility of IVF, and led to angry reactions on Weibo of women who felt like the government was pushing women to have children.

Friday’s People’s Daily article also immediately triggered thousands of comments on Chinese social media. On Weibo, there were over 14K comments within several hours.

The vast majority of commenters criticized the article and made sarcastic comments about it: “They have totally gone mad! Surrogacy was illegal and now it is being promoted to increase birth rates!”

“We as Chinese women are not being treated as human beings but as breeding machines!” some wrote.

There were also netizens that sharply pointed out the improbability of the suggestion that surrogacy could be legalized without making it commercial: “I’ve never heard of any voluntary surrogate mothers. Whoever is willing to provide this kind of service for free? What can you say to surrogate mums? ‘Sorry I need to borrow your womb?'”

There are also those who sarcastically wondered: “If we are struggling with infertility, can we expect that child trafficking will also be legal one day?”

 

“Our wombs do not belong to ourselves, but to the country and the Party.”

 

Many commenters worry about the future of birth intervention in China, writing: “When I want to have more babies, it is prohibited. And now they’ve [suddenly] worked out this unethical way to force us to give birth. This is another insane form of birth control – they may eventually start to fine couples who don’t give birth one day.”

China’s strict control over children births has been controversial in international society for a long time.

At present, only rich parents can afford to resort to alternative ways to have a child, such a IVF and using surrogate mothers or receiving high-quality medical treatment in foreign clinics.

China’s huge underground market in surrogacy has thus been rapidly growing with demands largely exceeding supplies. According to the article, the number of couples suffering from infertility in China is about 15 million, which means that whether surrogacy remains illegal or not, it will still be a booming sector with potential profits.

There have been radical changes in China’s child policies over the recent years: from “over-produced” children being deprived of official documentation for basic social services to the wide-publicizing encouragement of second babies’ births.

“Our wombs do not belong to ourselves, but to the country and the Party,” one female Weibo user sadly commented.

– By Yue Xin
Follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook

(Featured image: the slogan on the wall in rural China has been edited after the change of policy. Photo credit to CNR. “Better to let the blood flows like river, not allowing to give birth to one more/less.”)

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

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jully

    February 4, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Oh, they have a great population. In fact, they even have two-children policy. It was made not for nothing. Thus, they give birth many. But, you know, at the same time, there are families who have infertility. One couple can have three babies, for example. While, another family can have none. In such situationб infertile will feel a piece of in justice. And I can understand them. Thus, it is rather complicated issue. Interests of all people must be considered. As of surrogacy, maybe it can be allowed only for infertile. It can be used only in the case of medical reasons. In such cases, it can be. It must be only strictly regulated.

  2. Avatar

    Siobhan Justin

    February 11, 2017 at 6:36 am

    The logical course of action would be to lift the bans on childbirth altogether. The two child policy isn’t much better than the one child policy; it still leads to forced abortions. Procreation is a gift from God; it should not be limited by man.

  3. Avatar

    Megan

    July 3, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Oh, they have a great population. In fact, they even have two-children policy. It was made not for nothing. Thus, they give birth many. But, you know, at the same time, there are families who have infertility. One couple can have three babies, for example. While, another family can have none. In such situationб infertile will feel a piece of in justice. And I can understand them. Thus, it is rather complicated issue. Interests of all people must be considered. As of surrogacy, maybe it can be allowed only for infertile. It can be used only in the case of medical reasons. In such cases, it can be. It must be only strictly regulated.

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China Health & Science

Applying China’s New Civil Code, Shanghai Court Annuls Marriage after Husband Hides HIV-positive Status from Wife

The court case triggered discussions on the need for premarital health checks.

Manya Koetse

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Jiang is HIV-positive but did not mention his status to his partner before getting married. Under China’s new civil code, the marriage is now annulled.

On January 4, a Shanghai court applied the new rules of China’s Civil Code for the first time to annul a marriage.

The Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China was adopted by the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress in May of last year and is effective since January 1st 2021. Some experts within China call the law a “milestone legislation” that will better protect people’s civil rights.

On Monday, January 4, a landmark court case in which the new civil code was applied for the first time in Shanghai went trending on Chinese social media.

The case involves a married couple of which the husband had failed to inform his wife that he was HIV positive before getting married.

In June of 2020, Mr. Jiang and Ms. Li got married after Li became pregnant. Afterward, Jiang confessed that he had been HIV-positive for multiple years, and was taking medication to control his disease.

Jiang alleged that, due to his medication, there was effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to his partner. But Li, who did not contract HIV, could not accept the situation and decided to terminate her pregnancy and applied for a marriage annulment.

Under the new civil code, annulment of marriage is possible when a partner who is “seriously ill” – which now includes HIV/AIDS – fails to inform their fiance of their condition before getting married.

Since Jiang had not informed his wife of his condition before tying the knot, the Shanghai Minhang Court ruled in Li’s favor and annulled the marriage.

On Weibo, the case has attracted a lot of attention, with one hashtag about the case (#男方婚前患艾滋未告知婚姻关系被撤销#) attracting 690 million views on Monday.

The news item also led to another hashtag gaining many views: “The Need for Premarital Medical Examination” (#婚前体检的必要性#) had 200 million views on its hashtag page on Monday.

One popular relationship blogger (@感情感分析异地恋) argues that the Shanghai court case shows the importance of couples getting a medical examination before getting married: “It’s not to discriminate against those who are HIV positive or who are suffering from other illnesses, but it’s about informing your partner about these things before getting married.”

Premarital health checks were previously compulsory in China, but these examinations are no longer required since 2003. Many couples do still go for premarital health checkups. According to Xinhua, over 61% of Chinese couples had a medical examination before getting married in 2018.

Although the application of China’s new civil code is generally praised by Weibo users in this case, it has previously also received a lot of negative attention. The new law also introduced a mandatory 30-day “cooling off” period for couples seeking divorce.

This “cooling off” period is seen as harmful to those who are suffering abuse within marriage and already have difficulties in leaving their abusive partner. The case of Lamu, a Tibetan vlogger who died after her husband set her on fire, also led to more online discussions of the “cooling off” period and how it makes women more vulnerable within their marriage.

By Manya Koetse

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 Health & Science

Annual List of China’s Best Hospitals: Ranking the Top 10 Hospitals of the Year

These are China’s best hospitals according to the Fudan University annual ranking list.

Manya Koetse

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A new list with the 50 highest rated hospitals in China of the year 2019 has been released earlier this month.

A hospital list, ranking the best hospitals in China, was released earlier this month. The list is independently issued annually since 2010 by the Hospital Management Institute of Shanghai’s Fudan University. It ranks the top 100 hospitals in China and the top 10 hospitals over various clinical specialties. In doing so, it has become one of the most important hospital rankings in China.

The topic became trending on Weibo with over 110 million views (#复旦版中国医院排行榜#). Although there is a major interest in this topic, there are also those questioning what makes a hospital the ‘best’ hospital. This list, among other things, is based on the hospital’s reputation and its capacity to conduct scientific research.

“What is fame and reputation? What I care about when seeing a doctor is their success rate in curing patients,” one social media user wrote – a sentiment shared by many. Others also say it is best to look for the right hospital depending on the patient’s personal needs.

Although it is true that these rankings do not include any rates on treatment results, they are relevant to patients for their reputation and size nonetheless.

China currently has a significant shortage of doctors, and the most qualified doctors are more prone to go to the hospitals with the best reputation. It is an ongoing cycle that has left many of the more rural and smaller hospitals lacking qualified staff. (For more about the problems facing China’s healthcare system, also see this article.)

We will list the top 10 of China’s best hospitals according to the report here, including some basic info.

 

#1 Peking Union Medical College Hospital
中国医学科学院北京协和医院

Peking Union Medical College Hospital (PUMCH) has topped these rankings consecutively for 11 years. The hospital was founded in 1921 by Rockefeller Foundation and is affiliated to both Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS).

PUMCH offers 2000 beds, has more than 4000 employees, and 57 clinical and medical departments. The hospital recently also launched its online services, including consultation, prescribing medicine, and electronic medical recording, which reportedly will expand to all clinical sections of the hospital.

Weibo: @北京协和医院 (960906 followers)
Website: link
Address: #9 Dongdan 3rd Alley, Dongcheng, Beijing, China

 

#2 West China Hospital Sichuan University
四川大学华西医院

Founded in 1872, the West China Medical Center is China’s biggest hospital in terms of size, and also ranks number two in the list of the world’s largest hospitals (no 1 being the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan). The hospital has a capacity of 4300 beds and there are 46 clinical departments.

West China Hospital has recently been in the news a lot due to the development of its own experimental COVID19 vaccine.

Weibo: @四川大学华西医院 (483829 followers)
Website: link
Address: #37 Guoxue Alley, Wuhou District, Chengdu, Sichuan Province

 

#3 People’s Liberation Army General Hospital / 301 Hospital
中国人民解放军总医院

The General Hospital of the People’s Liberation Army (PLAGH), also known as 301 Hospital or PLA General Hospital, is the largest general hospital under the auspices of the People’s Liberation Army. The military hospital, used by the top leadership, was founded in 1953 and has a capacity of 4000 beds.

Earlier this year, the hospital made headlines for being the first center in Asia to provide newly advanced (ZAP) non-invasive technologies to treat brain tumors.

Website: link
Address: No. 28 Fuxing Road, Haidian District, Beijing

 

#4 Ruijin Hospital
上海交通大学医学院附属瑞金医院

Ruijin Hospital, formally known as Guangci Hospital, was founded in 1907. The hospital has 34 clinical departments, with a capacity of 1774 beds and a staff of over 3300.

The hospital is known for the rescue of burn victim Qiu Caikang, an iron worker of Shanghai Steel Factory who was burnt by molten steel in 1958. Although he suffered extensive burns to 89% of his body – and was thought unlikely to survive -, the staff at the hospital were able to successfully treat him. The hospital’s technologies in treatment of deep burns has since been renowned throughout the country.

Website: link
Address: 197, Rui Jin Er Road,Shanghai 

 

#5 Zhongshan Hospital Fudan University
复旦大学附属中山医院

This Shanghai hospital, which opened in 1937, is a major teaching hospital affiliated with the Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University. It was the first large-scale general hospital managed by Chinese people at its time of opening.

Zhongshan Hospital is leading in China when it comes to the treatment of heart, kidney, and diseases, and liver cancer. The hospital has over 1900 beds and more than 4000 hospital staff.

Website: link
Address: 180 Fenglin Road, Shanghai

 

#6 The First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University
中山大学附属第一医院

The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year. Founded in 1910, the hospital was initially called the Affiliated Hospital of Guangdong Public Institution of Medicine. It is one of the largest hospitals in China.

The hospital is renowned for various medical specialties, including liver and kidney transplantion. The hospital has 72 clinical departments, 3523 beds, and over 6000 staff.

Website: link
Address: 58 Zhongshan 2nd Rd, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province

 

#7 Tongji Hospital, Huazhong University of Science and Technology
华中科技大学同济医学院附属同济医院

Tongji Hospital was officially founded by German doctor Erich Paulun in 1900, located in Shanghai, and did not move the Medical College to Wuhan until 1950. The hospital, which now has some 4000 beds and 7000 staff members, has 52 clinical and paramedical departments.

During the new coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, the hospital provided 800 beds for severe cases.

Website: link
Address: No.1095 Jie Fang Avenue, Hankou, Wuhan

 

#8 Xijing Hospital
空军军医大学西京医院

Xijing Hospital was founded in 1939 and has since been a hospital of several ‘world’s firsts’, including being world’s first hospital to recreate a ‘4D’-printed breast for a cancer patient who underwent a mastectomy. The hospital also saw China’s first baby born from a transplanted womb.

Xijing Hospital houses 3218 beds.

Website: link
Adress: No. 127 Changle West Road, Xincheng District, Xi’an

 

#9 Huashan Hospital
复旦大学附属华山医院

Huashan Hospital’s main branch is located in the city center of Shanghai, in the former French Concession. The hospital was founded in 1907 as the Chinese Red Cross General Hospital by Governor Shen Dunhe, the founder of the Red Cross Society of China. The hospital opened for business in 1909.

Besides being a general hospital with around 3000 staff members and over 1215 beds at the main branch, it is also Fudan University’s major and renowned teaching hospital. Huashan is one of the best-known hospitals in China.

Website: link
Address: 12 Wulumuqi Middle Rd, Jing’an District, Shanghai

 

#10 Wuhan Union Hospital
华中科技大学同济医学院附属协和医院

Wuhan Union Hospital has a long history; it was founded in 1866 by Griffith John, a Welsh Christian missionary and translator in China. The hospital is an active general hospital, as well as focusing on teaching and scientific research.

The hospital has a total of 5000 beds and more than 8000 staff members. In 2020, the hospital became one of the designated hospitals to treat patients from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Website: link
Address: 1277 Jiefang Avenue, Wuhan, Hubei Province

 

By Manya Koetse

Original photo used in featured image by Adhy Savala

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.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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