Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

31/08/2015

Fewer crimes to be subject to death penalty|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

China’s top legislature has adopted an amendment to the Criminal Law removing the death penalty for nine crimes and limiting the ability of those convicted of corruption from continually seeking reduced sentences. The revisions, passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Saturday, will take effect on Nov 1.

Crimes that will no longer subject to the death penalty include: ・ smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; ・ counterfeiting money and fraudently raising funds; ・ arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; ・ obstructing military personnel from performing their duties; ・ fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime. When the law takes effect, the number of crimes subject to capital punishment will be reduced to 46.

Since the late 1990s, there has been a consistent move to reduce the use of the death penalty and gradually reduce the number of capital crimes, said Lang Sheng, deputy head of the Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee. Lang said the decision to abolish the death penalty in the nine crimes was made after thorough research. “After deliberation on the sentencing of the nine crimes, we found the death penalty was rarely applied,” he said. In other cases, few crimes of that type were prosecuted. The revision reflects the changing views of society and the legal community, Lang said.

The legislature also sought to restrict the ability of people convicted of corruption to repeatedly seek reduced sentences. Currently, those who are convicted of serious corruption offenses might receive a death sentence with a two-year reprieve. During the suspended death sentence period, felons typically apply for sentence reductions, often leading to sentences of life imprisonment. The law allows them, thereafter, to appeal for further reductions-commutation of their sentences, parole or non-prison sentences. The amendment changes that, allowing the courts to decline further sentence reductions. “Courts will be allowed to pass a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of commutation or parole in corruption cases,” the Law Committee said in a report to the NPC.

The amendment to the Criminal Law also changed rape laws so that sex with girls under 14, whether consensual or not, is rape. The change comes amid public outrage over recent offenders who were charged with lesser crimes in such cases.

Source: Fewer crimes to be subject to death penalty|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

21/08/2015

China’s love for Chariot’s Of Fire hero Eric Liddell

A clutch of elderly Chinese pensioners, three Canadian women in their 70s and 80s and a British film star gathered in the courtyard of a school in the obscure industrial town of Weifang on Monday to witness the unveiling of a statue of a running man.

Statue of Scottish Olympic running hero Eric Liddel

The athlete immortalised in bronze in China is Eric Liddell, the legendary Olympian whose achievements were marked in the 1981 fi lm Chariots Of Fire.

The Canadians were there because Liddell was their father and the presence of the actor, Joseph Fiennes, was because he plays the Scottish sprinter in The Last Race, a new movie about his life to be released in March.

But why would the Chinese authorities be interested in venerating such a man? The truth is that Liddell is as much Chinese as he is Scottish.

Born in Tianjin in 1902 he went on to spend more than half his life in the country as an evangelical Christian missionary. And so while he is known as the Flying Scotsman in the UK in China he is remembered as the country’s first Olympic champion.

It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known

Eight years before Beijing sent its first team to the Olympics, Liddell won a memorable gold medal in the 400m as part of the British team in the Paris Games of 1924. His victory was all the more poignant because he had been forced to pull out of his best event the 100m as soon as the timetable for the Games was announced.

Liddell, the son of Scottish missionaries, was such a devout Christian that he would not countenance breaking the Sabbath to take part in heats held on a Sunday. Aware this meant he wouldn’t be able to participate in the qualifying rounds for the sprint Liddell devoted all his energy to training for the 400m.

As he took to the starting blocks for the final a masseur with the American Olympic team is said to have slipped a piece of paper into his hand with the Book Of Samuel quotation: “Those who honour me I will honour.”

The fates were certainly on Liddell’s side that day.

He not only won but broke the existing Olympic and world records with a time of 47.6 seconds.

His sporting success did not divert him from his chosen course however and within a year he travelled to China to take up a posting as a missionary teacher in Tianjin’s Anglo-Chinese College, a school popular with the local elite.

The missionaries believed that by teaching Christian values to the children of the wealthy they might promote them later when they reached positions of influence.

Liddell also got involved in the sporting curriculum and even advised on the construction of Tianjin’s Minyuan Stadium.

He proposed an exact copy of the then football ground of Chelsea FC, said to have been his favourite running venue in the UK. He met and married a Canadian woman called Florence, also a child of missionaries, and they had daughters Patricia and Heather.

When Florence was pregnant with their third, war broke out and, with the Imperial Japanese Army sweeping through China, Liddell insisted she and the girls leave for Canada .

Typically Liddell refused to leave his beloved China in its hour of need and was interned and placed in a camp in Weifang, where he dedicated himself to the welfare of fellow inmates.

One of these, Langdon Gilkey, a 19-year-old American who went on to became a prominent theologian, said of Liddell: “Often I would see him bent over a chessboard or a model boat or directing some sort of square dance – absorbed, weary and interested, pouring all of himself into this effort to capture the imagination of penned-up youths.

“He was overflowing with good humour and love for life with enthusiasm and charm.

“It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known.”

Liddell even turned down the opportunity to return to Britain after the prime minister Winston Churchill brokered a deal for his release. True to form Liddell arranged for a pregnant woman from the camp to take his place. His tireless efforts on behalf of both the children of the camp and the older generation took its toll to such an extent that in early 1945 he had to be admitted to the camp hospital.

A few days later he sat up in bed and wrote to his wife in Canada: “… was carrying too much responsibility… had slight nervous breakdown… much better after a month in hospital. Special love to you and the children, Eric”.

But in fact he was not much better. He had a brain tumour and within an hour of writing the note he was gone.

His friend and colleague Anne Buchan reported that he uttered the words, “It’s full surrender”, before lapsing into a coma from which he would never recover. He was just 43.

via China’s love for Chariot’s Of Fire hero Eric Liddell | History | News | Daily Express.

21/08/2015

China gets Chariots of Fire sequel up and running

The much-loved British film Chariots of Fire about the Scottish runner and missionary Eric Liddell is getting a sequel thanks to his many fans in China.

Ian Charleston as Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire

Joseph Fiennes will play Riddell in a new movie filmed in China, co-written and directed by the Hong Kong director Stephen Shin with Canadian director Michael Parker.

It will be distributed by the Hong Kong-based Alibaba Pictures, who this morning also announced that they are to back the fifth Mission Impossible film.

Chariots of Fire, which won four Oscars in 1982, starred Ian Charleson as Liddell, a devout Christian who had to choose between his sport and religious beliefs at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Months before the Olympics took place, Liddell had to drop his plans to enter his preferred 100m race because the heats took place on a Sunday. Instead, he trained for the 400m and succeeded in taking the gold medal for Great Britain.

The Independent reports that the Chinese-born Liddell is regarded as a hero in China, partly for his sporting prowess but also for his actions in the Japanese internship camp where he died aged 43. Liddell was thought to have organised the smuggling of food in to prisoners.

Born in China to missionary parents, he returned to that country after his Olympic victory to continue his parents’ work. In 1934 he married fellow missionary Florence Mackenzie with whom he had three children.

Liddell remained in China after Japan invaded in 1937. In 1943, he was held in an internment camp in Weifang, and died of a brain tumour two years later, aged 43. In 2008, shortly before the Beijing Olympics, it was revealed that Winston Churchill had negotiated his release through a prisoner swap, which Liddell turned down so that a pregnant inmate could gain freedom instead.

China allows only 34 non-Chinese films to be shown in its mainland cinemas each year. Alibaba Pictures says that it “should” get such a release.

Such a focus on religion is unusual for a film in China, where the Communist government promotes atheism.

via China gets Chariots of Fire sequel up and running.

15/08/2015

Modi Uses Independence Day Speech to Hit Out at ‘Termite-Like’ Graft – India Real Time – WSJ

At the end of a week in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to push broad measures aimed at boosting the economy through Parliament, the Indian leader sought in an Independence Day address to draw attention to his efforts to make the machinery of government more efficient and less corrupt.

In a 90-minute speech delivered from the ramparts of New Delhi’s Red Fort on Saturday, Mr. Modi didn’t focus on sweeping policy changes or big, new plans. Instead, he spoke of trying to enforce change in the Indian government bureaucracy, a system he characterized as riddled with “termite-like” graft and inertia and accustomed to inordinate delays.

“What government doesn’t make big declarations?” Mr. Modi said. “The test is whether we are able to implement the promises we make. We have stressed a new work culture.”

Under attack from political opponents who have tried to portray him as pro-business and anti-farmer, Mr. Modi didn’t once mention his “Make in India” campaign to encourage foreign and domestic investors to set up factories in India, nor did he directly address weeks of opposition protests that stalled a major tax overhaul in Parliament.

via Photos: Modi Uses Independence Day Speech to Hit Out at ‘Termite-Like’ Graft – India Real Time – WSJ.

07/08/2015

Where You Can and Can’t Eat Beef in India – India Real Time – WSJ

The treatment of cows, animals considered sacred by India’s Hindu majority, has long stirred political controversy in the country –and now conservatives, emboldened by the first year of the Hindu nationalist government, are stepping up their campaign to protect them.

In many Indian states, the slaughter of cows is already illegal, making it difficult to buy, sell, and, as a result, eat, beef.

Some conservative Hindus want Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party government to enact a federal law banning cow slaughter. They are “encouraged to be aggressive under the Modi regime and this is to be expected,” said Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, an Indian specialist at the Cato Institute in Washington.

 

The party argues that protecting the animal is in line with India’s constitution, which includes language calling for the prohibition of the slaughter of cows.

In Maharashtra, where killing the animal is illegal, a new law in March banned the possession of beef and also the slaughter of bulls and bullocks. Running afoul of the new law can lead to a jail term of up to five years or a fine of up to 10,000 rupees ($156) or both.

The amendment was passed by the state government in 1995 and received the president’s nod in March.

In the same month, the state assembly of Haryana passed a bill containing stricter punishments for the animal’s slaughter. It is still waiting for the president’s approval, a senior official at the state’s animal husbandry department said.

States such as Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, which are at the heart of India’s buffalo meat industry, have also imposed complete bans on killing cows. The practice is outlawed in the capital city of Delhi. Other major states with bans include Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa.

In Gujarat, Mr. Modi’s home state, India’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s law that prohibits killing of cows, bulls and bullocks in 2005, overturning the decision of the Gujarat High Court that ruled against a blanket ban on bull and bullock slaughter. But in 2011, sentences for people caught killing cows were increased from six months to seven years.

West Bengal, which has a higher than average population of Muslims, is slightly more lenient and allows the killing of cows if they are “fit-for-slaughter.”  A senior official in the animal husbandry department in Assam said that such a certificate would also permit the slaughter of cows in that state but usually only during the Islamic religious festival of Eid.

Overall, 24 of India’s 29 states–including the newest state of Telangana–have imposed penalties  and restrictions of varying degrees on the slaughter of cows and other cattle.

Meanwhile, in the southern state of Kerala, where beef dishes are popular and which has a larger than average proportion of Christians, there is no statewide legislation restricting cow slaughter.

And the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and the territory of Lakshadweep also have no legislation banning or prohibiting slaughter of cows and other cattle.

Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister, failed to persuade Parliament to pass nationwide legislation banning the slaughter of cows in 2003 when he was agriculture minister. “The moment I rose to present the bill in the Parliament, there was an uproar and the bill couldn’t be passed,” he said in a speech in March.

This time, however, Mr. Singh said the government will do everything in its power to ban cow slaughter in the country. But BJP’s success in getting such a legislation cleared by the Parliament is not guaranteed as it is short of a majority in the upper house.

via Where You Can and Can’t Eat Beef in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

02/08/2015

China to expand medical insurance for major illnesses | Reuters

China will expand medical insurance to cover all critical illnesses for all urban and rural residents by the end of the year, the cabinet said on Sunday, the latest step in a plan to fix a healthcare system that has sparked public discontent.

The State Council said 50 percent of the medical costs will be covered by insurance in a bid to “more effectively reduce the burden of medical expenses”, in a statement posted on the government’s website.

President Xi Jinping‘s government has touted access to affordable healthcare as a key platform of his administration, underscoring the importance of meeting the needs of the nearly 1.4 billion people, many of whom have often complained of large out-of-pocket expenses due to low levels of insurance coverage.

Many people say the cost of serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes can bankrupt households under the current system.

The aim of expanding health insurance was to “effectively alleviate poverty caused by illness” and to build a strong universal healthcare system, the State Council said.

Since 2009, China has spent 3 trillion yuan ($480 billion) on healthcare reform, but the system still struggles with a scarcity of doctors, attacks by patients on medical staff and a fragmented drug distribution and retail market.

Economists say it is crucial for China to improve the quality of its healthcare if it wishes to remake its economy and boost domestic consumption. They say a stronger safety net will encourage Chinese to spend more and save less.

China’s healthcare spending is set to hit $1 trillion by 2020, up from $357 billion in 2011, according to McKinsey & Co, attracting a rapid inflow of money from private insurers, hospital operators and other investors.

via China to expand medical insurance for major illnesses | Reuters.

28/07/2015

Apple ‘fake factory’ raided in China – BBC News

A factory which allegedly made up to 41,000 fake Apple iPhones has been raided in China, with nine arrests.

iphone 6

The operation reportedly involved “hundreds” of workers repackaging second hand smartphone parts as new iPhones for export, with counterfeit phones produced worth 120m yuan ($19m).

The factory was discovered on 14 May but was revealed on social media by Beijing’s public security bureau on Sunday, according to reports.

The operation was set up in January.

It was led by a husband and wife team, on the northern outskirts of the Chinese capital, according to Beijing authorities.

They said they had been alerted to the factory by US authorities which had seized some of the fake phones.

The reports come amid an official Chinese crackdown on counterfeit goods, with authorities pushing firms to trademark their goods.

China has also agreed to work with the US authorities to try to stem the large quantities of fake goods flowing between the two countries.

The discovery of the factory comes four years after fake Apple stores were found in Kunming city, China.

Discovered by blogger BirdAbroad, the fakes were so convincing she said many of the staff themselves were convinced that they were employed by the US electronics firm.

via Apple ‘fake factory’ raided in China – BBC News.

28/07/2015

Confucius says, Xi does | The Economist

TWO emerging cults are on display in Qufu, a city in eastern China where Confucius was born. One surrounds the ancient sage himself. At a temple in his honour, visitors take turns to bow and prostrate themselves before a large statue of Confucius seated on a throne. For each obeisance, a master of ceremonies chants a wish, such as for “success in exams” or “peace of the country”. On the other side of the city the tomb of Confucius is the scene of similar adoration—flowers adorn it as if he were a loved one recently lost.

The other cult in Qufu surrounds the country’s president, Xi Jinping. People still recall with excitement the trip he made to the city in 2013. It was the first by a Communist Party chief in more than two decades; in fact, though Mr Xi has visited Qufu he has not, since becoming China’s leader, paid respects at the birthplace of Mao Zedong at Shaoshan in Hunan province. Today plates decorated with Mr Xi’s image are for sale in Qufu’s trinket shops. His beaming face is on display on a large billboard outside the Confucius Research Institute, together with a quotation from the modern sage: “In the spread of Confucianism around the world, China must fully protect its right to speak up,” it begins.

Since he came to power in 2012, Mr Xi has sought to elevate Confucius—whom Mao vilified—as the grand progenitor of Chinese culture. He did not go so far as to pay homage at the Confucius temple in Qufu, where Mao’s Red Guard mobs once wrought havoc (one of their slogans, “Revolution is not a crime”, still survives daubed on a stone tablet). Neither did his few published remarks include explicit praise for Confucian philosophy, which still raises hackles among party hacks brought up to regard it as the underpinning of “feudal” rule in premodern China.

To emperors, who were regular visitors to Qufu, Confucianism was practically a state religion. “Uncle Xi”, for all the mini-cult surrounding him, does not seem keen to be viewed as a latter-day emperor. But like leaders of old, he evidently sees Confucianism as a powerful ideological tool, with its stress on order, hierarchy, and duty to ruler and to family. Unlike the party’s imported, indigestible Marxist dogma, Confucianism has the advantage of being home-grown. It appeals to a yearning for ancient values among those unsettled by China’s blistering pace of change.

Though the party has quietly been rehabilitating Confucius for some time, under Mr Xi the pace has quickened. In February 2014 he convened a “collective study” session of the ruling Politburo at which he said that traditional culture should act as a “wellspring” nourishing the party’s values. Official accounts of the session made no mention of Confucius, but party literature made it clear that the values Mr Xi spoke of—such as benevolence, honesty and righteousness—were those espoused by the philosopher. In September Mr Xi became the first party chief to attend a birthday party for Confucius (who turned 2,565). China, he told assembled scholars from around the world, had always been peace-loving—a trait, he said, that had “very deep origins in Confucian thinking”. In May state media reported that the link between Marxism and Confucianism, which some might consider rather tenuous, was the “hottest topic” in the study of humanities in 2014.

Add plenty of sage

Under Mr Xi the party has tweaked its ideological mantras to sound more Confucian. At the party congress in 2012 that marked Mr Xi’s assumption of power, slogans about “core socialist values” were distilled into 12 words, each formed by two Chinese characters and plastered all over Beijing and other cities. The ideas are a hotch-potch. Some are strikingly Western, such as democracy, freedom and equality. There is a nod to socialism with “dedication to work”. Others, such as harmony and sincerity, look more Confucian. Zhang Yiwu of Peking University notes a similarity with the “shared values” adopted by Singapore’s government in 1991. Authoritarian Singapore, where officials hold Confucianism in high regard, has been an inspiration to China, Mr Zhang says.

via Confucius says, Xi does | The Economist.

19/07/2015

Farmer suicides in Karnataka – The Hindu

Is it falling prices? Is it a glut in production? Or are farmers just falling into debt because of aspirational spending? Whatever the reason, Karnataka is again facing the spectre of rising suicides

“Crop loans are difficult to get, but large personal or consumption loans are easily available. This is the surest way to push farmers into deep debt, from which they are unable to recover because their earnings cannot keep pace with agricultural costs.” Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash

Krishna, 32, a farmer in Singamaranahalli, about 30 km from Hunsur in Mysuru district, consumed pesticide and died in the first week of June. The sesame farmer with three acres of land could not survive the debt trap he was in. He had defaulted on repayment to a local cooperative bank, fallen into the clutches of moneylenders, the water table had dropped, and his borewells had run dry. Having lost all hope of repaying the loans, he decided to end it all.

In the last fortnight alone, 50 farmers have committed suicide in Karnataka. The State Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda admits “it is alarming”. What is puzzling is that cases of farmer suicides had actually dropped over the last two years and have now suddenly begun to increase from mid-June onwards.

The suicides point to two things: first, a serious agrarian crisis shaped by an increase in cultivation costs and a decline in agricultural income, which is pushing farmers into a debt trap; and second, the sociological pressures that farmers face because of the disparity between their income and those in urban areas.

Vivek Cariappa is an organic farmer from Mysuru. He talks of the insecurity among farmers because neither the State nor institutional mechanisms have been able to address the crisis.

It is difficult to get crop loans, he says, but loans for consumption goods like cars, or personal loans for weddings and festivals are easily available. It is the surest way to push farmers into debt.

In Panakanahalli in Mandya district, Mahesh took a loan for his sister’s marriage. In Kestur village of Chamarajanagar district, Nanjundaiah borrowed Rs. 30,000 from a bank and Rs. 4 lakh from moneylenders to get his daughters married. Both farmers were unable to repay the loans and committed suicide.

The problem is also sociological: Farmers who aspire to the lifestyle of salaried persons end up taking loans, sometimes at 60-80 per cent interest rates, and become prey to loan sharks.

“ There is a serious agrarian crisis with an increase in agricultural costs and a decline in earnings. There is also sociological pressure ”

For most farmers across the State, what were once considered luxury items such as cars have now become aspirational necessities. Kurubur Shanthakumar, President of the State Sugarcane Growers’ Association, talks of how he followed his father’s footsteps and became a farmer, but his son wanted to study in Mysuru. This ended up costing Shanthakumar a sizeable sum of money. The pressure is most severe in areas close to the big urban centres of Mysuru and Bengaluru, but is true in general all over, points out G.K. Veeresh, former chairman of the State government’s committee that studied farmer suicides in 2002.

Then, mono-cropping had been seen as a major cause for suicides. Mr. Veeresh talks about how farmers had a tendency to focus on a single crop if it had seen commercial success. The problem was, when it failed, they faced total collapse. More than land holding, says Mr. Veeresh, crop planning is the bigger issue. Farmers must be educated to see the long-term benefits of “multi crop-multi income” farming.

But this time around, the farmers who committed suicide don’t appear to have stayed with one crop. Yes, some sugarcane farmers have faced a major crisis after sugar factories, mostly owned by powerful politicians, defaulted on payments, but they have not accounted for the majority of suicides.

T.N. Prakash, Chairman, Karnataka Agriculture Price Commission, speaks of the urgent need to address the issue of rising input costs when incomes stay stagnant. One suggestion Mr. Prakash makes is interesting. He says that the Agriculture Price Commission could instead become a commission for agricultural cost, prices and farmer’s incomes, which would give it more authority to implement suitable measures.

Another reason could be a glut in production. Mr. Cariappa and Mr. Shanthakumar point out that the State, despite having records of the area under sugarcane cultivation and the crushing capacities of sugar mills, has turned a blind eye to excessive cultivation. This has kept prices low enough to benefit the sugar mills owned by politicians.

This glut is true for cotton, tobacco and other crops as well. Excess production helps processing industries, as it ensures that the prices of raw materials stay low and they profit from it. There is also “mass hysteria” when a farmer commits suicide, and it may result in others taking the same step. Politics over farmer suicides and the wide publicity they get tend, in a way, to “glorify” suicides and worsen the situation, says Mr. Veeresh.

via Farmer suicides in Karnataka – The Hindu.

13/07/2015

Tales of the unexpected | The Economist

WEIJIA is a typical Chinese seven-year-old. He loves riding his bike and anything to do with cars; he is a badminton fanatic and has lessons twice a week. In a few months’ time, however, he will become rather less typical. He will have a brother or sister—something most urban Chinese children lack.

His parents are taking advantage of a relaxation in November 2013 of the country’s strict family-planning rules. Couples are now allowed to have a second baby if one parent is an only child. After more than 35 years of often brutal enforcement of the one-child-per-couple policy, some had expected a mini baby-boom to follow. The National Health and Family Planning Commission estimated that the new rules would allow 11m more couples to have a second child (there were already exemptions for some). It thought that 2m of them would try in the first year. But by the end of 2014 fewer than 1.1m people had applied for the necessary permit.

 

That worries the government, which has tweaked the rules not out of sympathy for lonely only children or for parents who want a spare heir, but because of a population crunch. The country is ageing rapidly. In 2012 its labour pool shrank for the first time in 50 years. In the largest cities the fertility rate—meaning the number of children an average woman is likely to have during her lifetime—is among the lowest in the world, at around one. For the country as a whole it is less than 1.6—far below the level of 2.1 needed to keep the population steady (see chart).

The one-child policy did not curb Chinese fertility as much as its boosters imagine. By the time it was introduced in 1979, the fertility rate had already fallen to 2.8 from 5.8 in under a decade, thanks to usually less coercive efforts to encourage fewer births. Ruthless enforcement of the new policy resulted in widespread forced abortions and infanticide. It inflicted misery on parents who wanted larger families. But its overall impact on births was limited. In most countries, rising affluence has led to fewer babies. India’s fertility rate fell steadily over the same period without such formal policies, even though its economy did not grow nearly as fast as China’s. In wealthy South Korea the birth rate has fallen to 1.3 children per woman, down from six in 1960.

China’s authorities have now changed tack, from relentlessly proclaiming the virtues of having only one child to encouraging eligible couples to “procreate legally”. But they should not be surprised that this is failing to achieve the desired effect.

Since the 1980s rural families whose first child was a girl have been allowed to try for another. More recently, couples who are both single children have been allowed to have a second. Yet the uptake has been low. Academics, including Cai Yong of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, conducted a study in 2007-10 in the coastal province of Jiangsu. They found that among 2,500 urban and rural women they surveyed who were entitled to have a second child, only 6.5% did so. Ethnic minorities (nearly a tenth of the population), have long been allowed to have two or more. But on average each ethnic-minority woman bears only about 1.5 children, according to a census in 2010.

Mr Cai believes that rising incomes have been a big cause of shrinking family size. “Development is the best contraceptive,” he says. Births would have plummeted even without the one-child policy, he reckons, though not as fast or as low. Families worry about the expense of having babies: good education and health care are increasingly pricey. A study by Credit Suisse in 2013 found that couples typically spend over 22,500 yuan ($3,600) a year to raise a child to the age of 18. That is more than three-quarters of the average annual disposable income per person of urban households. A government report in 2015 said that in the first five years of a child’s life, city parents spend twice as much as rural ones, even before the high cost of urban housing is included—particularly near the best schools (see article).

Chinese families want their offspring not only to get a good education, but also to gain an edge in the global jobs market. Hence Weijia’s parents spend nearly 15% of their annual income just on classes for him, including weekly English lessons. Over half of children under six take extra classes in addition to those at kindergarten, according to IResearch, a Chinese market-research company.

Grandparents help to reduce the cost of child care (they often live with their grown-up children). But since people marry and have children later than they used to, the age of live-in grandparents is rising too; fewer are sprightly enough to deal with two children. It has become so common in China to have only one child that society is no longer geared to handle multiple offspring: hotel rooms for two children cannot be booked online (parents must call); play vehicles in parks seat two adults and one youngster; toothbrush-holders in family bathrooms often have space for just three brushes.

Decades of propaganda about the benefits of single children have changed the way parents think, says Wang Feng of the University of California, Irvine. A belief that China has too many people is widely shared, as is a conviction that the country would have been far worse off without the one-child policy. Many Chinese are surprisingly willing to blame the country’s terrible traffic and its air and water pollution on overpopulation, rather than bad planning. Having just one child still has the whiff of the patriotic about it.

The government’s next step may be to allow all couples to have two children. There is much speculation that the country’s parliament will approve this next year. Family-planning bureaucrats still fret about what might happen if restrictions were to be lifted. But the same factors of cost and hassle will continue to suppress the birth rate, regardless of how fast the policy is adjusted. Growing numbers of young Chinese people now prefer not to marry or have children at all.

via Tales of the unexpected | The Economist.

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