Archive for ‘Social & cultural’


He Starts Singing ‘You Raise Me Up.’ When She Joins In, Everyone Is Completely Speechless

You must watch this video.  Inspirational (at least to me).


Dream of the bed chamber | The Economist

“SEX, sex, sexual intercourse, penis, penis, vagina.”

More than 150 undergraduates are sitting in a lecture hall at China Agricultural University in Beijing, shouting loudly. Many are sexually active, or soon will be. Yet for most it is the first sex education class they have attended.

Their instructor hopes that shouting such words will help youngsters talk more openly about sex. Lu Zhongbao, a 24-year-old forestry student, says he was told as a child that he “emerged from a rock”. When he started having sex with his university girlfriend he had little idea about contraception. This evening he arrived an hour early armed with another question: will masturbating damage his health?

It is not just China’s economy that has loosened up since 1979. The country is in the midst of a sexual revolution. A 2012 study found that more than 70% of Chinese people have sex before marriage. Other polls put that figure lower but consistently indicate that over the past 30 years, more young Chinese are doing it, with more partners, at a younger age. But a lack of sex education means that many are not protecting themselves, resulting in soaring abortion rates and a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.

The Communist Party has stuck its nose into people’s bedrooms for 30 years through its harsh family-planning policies. Yet taboos on sex before marriage prevailed, the result of paternalistic—not religious—values about female chastity, with a dose of Communist asceticism thrown in. Pre-marital sex fell foul of a range of laws, including the catch-all charge of “hooliganism”, only scrapped in 1997.

The social climate remains chilly. Most news items about sex involve scandals or crimes. Schools ban pupils from dating and many deploy “morality patrols” to root out flirting or frolicking couples. Sex outside wedlock is not illegal but children born to unmarried mothers face obstacles obtaining a hukou, or household residency, that entitles them to subsidised education and welfare. Yet with greater freedom from their parents, more money and increasing exposure to permissive influences from abroad, China’s youth are clearly separating sex from procreation.

Education on the subject is compulsory in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—societies that have some cultural similarities with China. But most Chinese schools teach only basic anatomy.

This is not entirely for lack of trying. Pilot campaigns in Shanghai and Beijing schools in the 1980s were incorporated into a nationwide programme in 1988 but it was never implemented. In 2008 the Ministry of Education included sex education in the national health and hygiene curriculum. The barriers are not just prudery. Like football, fashion and other teenage pastimes, sex (and learning about it) is seen as a distraction from studies. “Sex is not an exam subject,” says Sheng Yingyi, a 21-year-old student.

Where classes happen, most students are merely given a textbook. “Happy Middle School Students”, written for 12- to 15-year-olds in 2006 and still widely used, refers to sperm meeting egg without describing the mechanics of intercourse. A more explicit volume for primary-school pupils published in 2011, which did explain how sperm were delivered, was criticised for being pornographic.

The dominant message is to abstain. A 2013 review by UNESCO and Beijing Forestry University noted the prevalence of “terror-based” sex education, with content largely focused on the horrors of pregnancy, abortion and HIV. Earlier this month a university in Xi’an in central China ran a course entitled “No Regrets Youth” where students received a “commitment card”, essentially a pledge to remain a virgin until marriage.

Source: Dream of the bed chamber | The Economist


The elephants fight back | The Economist

FOR anybody who fears that China’s interest in elephants’ tusks could spell doom for the great beasts, there have been two pieces of good news.

On September 25th Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, joined Barack Obama in pledging “significant and timely steps” to halt commercial trade in ivory. Then on October 15th China announced a one-year ban on the import of ivory hunting trophies from Africa, closing a big loophole. Wildlife activists are delighted. These moves should have “a profound effect” on elephant numbers, says Peter Knights of WildAid, a charity.

The world’s elephant population has dived from 1.2m in 1980 to under 500,000 today. In 1989 the sale of ivory was banned worldwide. But in 1999 and again in 2008, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a conservation pact, allowed the sale of stockpiles of ivory from southern Africa to China. The countries vowed to use the proceeds for conservation; China claimed it had a robust registration system that would keep illegal ivory out. But conservationists rightly predicted the concession would fuel more smuggling and so more killing.

Permitted sales became a cover for illegal ones. In 2010-12 about 100,000 elephants were slain for their tusks. In the past five years, Mozambique and Tanzania have lost half their elephants to poaching.

This dire trend reflects China’s deeper engagement with Africa, combined with corruption and the presence of criminal gangs. But it seems that Chinese leaders have seen the trade’s effects on their reputation, says Dominic Dyer of the Born Free Foundation, a charity. They should now close the legal carving workshops and ban the domestic trade, too, he adds.

Despite strong demand for ivory among China’s rising middle class, attitudes may gradually be changing. As of 2012, nearly half of Chinese people saw elephant poaching as a problem, according to a survey by WildAid. The figure has been boosted by the support of celebrities. Yao Ming, a basketball player, and Jackie Chan, an actor, appear on posters everywhere with the message: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.” The government has donated $200m worth of media space every year since 2008.

Opinion on ivory has shifted fast, says Mr Knights, partly because of the success of another campaign, to protect sharks. In the markets of Guangzhou, the global centre for the trade, dried shark fins have fallen from 3,000 yuan ($470) per kilo five years ago to 1,000 yuan today, as Chinese people abjure shark-fin soup, a delicacy.

WildAid raised its voice over that issue, too, but more important was the Communist Party’s ban in 2013 of shark-fin soup at official banquets, part of a drive against corruption and excess. The Hong Kong government followed, as did airlines and hotels. A survey in 2013 found 85% of people said they had stopped eating shark-fin soup in the past three years.

One scourge is untouched by all this: the illegal trade in rhinoceros horn. More than 1,200 rhinos were killed for their horns in 2014 in South Africa alone, up from just 13 killed in 2007. This partly reflects a huge rise in demand in Vietnam, but China is also a consumer. Ground rhino horn is believed to cure fever and improve sexual performance. One kilo can cost up to $70,000.

Ominously, some African nations now want a one-off sale of rhino-horn stocks, as happened twice with ivory. To secure this, South Africa must win two-thirds of the member states at the next CITES conference, which it hosts next year. Mr Dyer hopes other countries, including China, will dissuade the Africans. “We are in exactly the same place we were with ivory nearly ten years ago,” he frets.

Source: The elephants fight back | The Economist


Are Chinese ‘Too Rational’ for a Second Child? Interview With Mei Fong – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s announcement last week that it will let all couples have two children ended one of the most contentious birth restrictions in history–the one-child policy.

Implemented in 1980 to rein in explosive population growth during the Mao Zedong era, the one-child policy and its enforcement had myriad consequences, including forced abortions and sterilization. It placed the burden of elderly care on single children and fueled a gender imbalance. Some researchers also say a new generation of only children – or “little emperors” — are more pessimistic and less competitive than older generations with siblings. Now, the Chinese government is shifting course to offset the effects of a rapidly aging population and to avert labor shortages.

China Real Time spoke to Mei Fong, author of the book “One Child: The Past and Future of China’s Most Radical Experiment” and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, about the one-child policy and the unwinding of it. The book will be published in hardcover in January, but a digital edition was released Tuesday, Nov. 3. Below are edited excerpts of the interview: Mei Fong

Many couples say that despite changes in the policy, they will not have two children. What can the government do to promote births?

There was a recent Internet survey [on Chinese website Sina of 180,000 respondents who were asked if they wanted a second child] saying that 43% of people don’t want children. But there’s a difference of what people say and what they will do. A lot of people ideally want to have two so that they can have both a boy and a girl. The problem is that the one-child policy wasn’t the sole reason people weren’t and aren’t having children. For urban residents, the idea of having just one has been ingrained in them. It’s a social and economic decision and it would take a major mind shift to think of anything else.

People consider it almost it irresponsible to divert resources from any child.

One of the things that demographer Cai Yong said that has always stuck in my mind is that people are too rational for the business of having children.

Who are the likely candidates to have more children?

It’s the rich ones who will add a child. Wealthy people have been traveling to the U.S. for fertility services and U.S. passports , though it’s unclear how many. I know of one couple in Shanghai who had three children by going to the U.S. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

But it’s hard to make generalities about China. It’s a big place and we all know someone who has had a second child or third child.

Will that mean that a two-child policy will create a bigger upper class? And what will be the consequence? One of the things that the one-child policy has created already is an inequality gap. The spectrum hit the middle class, because the people above the middle class can afford to pay for it, while the ones below were often exempt. The one-child policy is adding to the class-struggle issues. It’s the rich people who have and will have bigger families. They’re the ones that can afford fertility treatment, because fertility is a major problem. They could always afford to pay the penalties [for having more than one child].

Several years ago, there was a study that said China’s single children, its little emperors,  were less competitive and less empathetic than those with siblings. Do you see that changing? I have some doubts about that because there have been many different studies on this. But certainly, they do seem to give themselves more pessimistic labeling, like diao si [roughly translated as loser], than others.

Source: Are Chinese ‘Too Rational’ for a Second Child? Interview With Mei Fong – China Real Time Report – WSJ


The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India | McKinsey & Company

India has a larger relative economic value at stake from advancing gender equality than any of the ten regions analyzed in a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth.

If all countries were to match the momentum toward gender parity of the fastest-improving countries in their region, $12 trillion a year could be added to global GDP. What’s more, India could add $700 billion of additional GDP in 2025, upping the country’s annual GDP growth by 1.4 percentage points (exhibit).

Our new report, The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India, reveals that about 70 percent of this “best in region” potential would come from raising women’s participation in India’s labor force by ten percentage points between now and 2025, bringing 68 million more women into the labor force—70 percent of them in just nine states. This will require bridging both economic and social gender gaps. To determine this, we have created a measure of gender equality for Indian states: the India Female Empowerment Index, or Femdex. Our analysis shows that scores vary widely, and India’s challenge is that the five states with the lowest gender inequality account for just 4 percent of the female working-age population; the five states with the highest inequality account for 32 percent.

Eight priority actions can help accelerate progress, including education and skill-building, job creation in key sectors, corporate policies to promote diversity, and programs to address deep-rooted mind-sets about the role of women in work.

Source: The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India | McKinsey & Company


China Abandons the One-Child Policy – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China on Thursday said it would formally end its notorious one-child policy, which was intended to curb a surging population but has since been blamed for looming demographic problems in the world’s No. 2 economy.

As WSJ’s Carlos Tejada reports: In a brief statement on Thursday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said all Chinese would be allowed to have two children. It didn’t provide a time frame or any other details. China effectively hobbled the one-child policy two years ago, when it allowed couples to have two children if one parent came from a household without other siblings. It has also long allowed exceptions in some parts of the country. Advertisement

Still, Thursday’s move marked a symbolic shift as well as an acknowledgment that China now faces a looming worker-shortage in coming decades. China’s fertility rate, or the number of births per woman, was below the replacement level at 1.17 in 2013, according to the most recent data from the World Bank. Demographers have been urging Beijing to do more to thwart a predicted labor shortage, arguing that they should lift birth restrictions entirely. Read the full story on Sign up for CRT’s daily newsletter to get the latest headlines by email.

Source: China Abandons the One-Child Policy – China Real Time Report – WSJ


Time to end China’s one-child policy urgently: government advisers warn of demographic crisis ahead | South China Morning Post

Government advisers have strengthened calls for China to further ease its stringent one-child policy urgently, ahead of a meeting this month during which the Communist Party’s decision-making body will set the tone for national economic and social development for the next five years.

Newborns receive vaccines in a hospital in China. Photo: Reuters

In a report recently submitted to the authorities, China’s top think tanks urged Beijing to immediately relax restrictions on the number of children couples are allowed to have, according to an academic with knowledge of the matter.

The report was based on a survey jointly conducted by several institutes including the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Renmin University and a think tank under the national family planning office, said the academic, who did not want to be named.

“There is already a consensus among China’s demographers that the limits should be relaxed,” said Wang Feng, a demographer with the University of California, Irvine, and a guest professor at Fudan University. “It’s … already too late to be doing so.”

While the survey’s contents were not made public, an earlier report by the China Business Network, a consultancy group, said it included predictions of the population trend and when it would peak. The survey had been commissioned by the decision-making authorities, highlighting the likelihood of a revision in the policy, the group said.

Source: Time to end China’s one-child policy urgently: government advisers warn of demographic crisis ahead | South China Morning Post


Fossils found in Chinese cave rewrite history of human migration out of Africa | South China Morning Post

A trove of 47 fossil human teeth from a cave in southern China is rewriting the history of the early migration of our species out of Africa, indicating they trekked into Asia far earlier than previously known and much earlier than into Europe.

Forty-seven human teeth found in the Fuyan Cave in Hunan Province in China. Photo: Reuters

Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of teeth between 80,000 and 120,000 years old that they say provide the earliest evidence of fully modern humans outside Africa.

The teeth from the Fuyan Cave site in Hunan Province‘s Daoxian County place our species in southern China 30,000 to 70,000 years earlier than in the eastern Mediterranean or Europe. The majority of the scientific community thought that Homo sapiens was not present in Asia before 50,000 years agoPAELEO-ANTHROPOLOGIST WU LIU

“Until now, the majority of the scientific community thought that Homo sapiens was not present in Asia before 50,000 years ago,” said paeleo-anthropologist Wu Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences‘ Institute of Vertebrate Paeleontology and Paeleo-anthropology.

Our species first appeared in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, then spread to other parts of the world, but the timing and location of these migrations has been unclear.

University College London paeleo-anthropologist María Martinón-Torres said our species made it to southern China tens of thousands of years before colonising Europe perhaps because of the entrenched presence of our hardy cousins, the Neanderthals, in Europe and the harsh, cold European climate.

Source: Fossils found in Chinese cave rewrite history of human migration out of Africa | South China Morning Post


China slaps one-year ban on imports of African ivory hunting trophies | Reuters

China slapped a one-year ban on African ivory hunting trophy imports, the state forestry authority said on Thursday ahead of a trip by President Xi Jinping to Britain, where members of the royal family have urged China to crack down on the ivory trade.

A government official picks up an ivory tusk to crush it at a confiscated ivory destruction ceremony in Beijing, China, May 29, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonConservationists say China’s growing appetite for contraband ivory imports, which are turned into jewels and ornaments, has fueled a surge in poaching in Africa.

In March, Britain’s Prince William urged an end to the trade during a visit to a Chinese elephant sanctuary in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

Xi is scheduled to travel to Britain between Oct. 19-23, where he will stay at Buckingham Palace, home to the royal family.

China’s State Forestry Administration said in a statement posted on its website that it would “temporarily prohibit” trophy imports until Oct. 15, 2016 and “suspend the acceptance of relevant administrative permits”.

It did not give further details, though the official Xinhua news agency said a government review is under way on whether to extend a separate one-year ban made in February on imports of African ivory carvings.

The policy also follows a deal to enact nearly complete bans on ivory imports and exports made during Xi’s September state visit to the United States.

Within China, the trade and sale of ivory carvings are legal if the items were imported before the country joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1981, or come from a stock of 62 tonnes of raw-ivory bought from four African countries in 2008 as a one-time exemption.

The government releases a portion of that stockpile each year to ivory carving factories.

China crushed 6.2 metric tonnes (6.83 tons) of confiscated ivory early last year in its first such public destruction of any part of its stockpile. However, the country still ranks as the world’s biggest end-market for poached ivory, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

In June, a Tanzanian government minister described elephant poaching as a national disaster, and urged China to curb its appetite for ivory.

Source: China slaps one-year ban on imports of African ivory hunting trophies | Reuters


Nobel Prize Winner Angus Deaton on the Chinese and Indian Miracles – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Angus Deaton, the economist who won a Nobel Prize this week, has spent much of his career trying to measure poverty and progress in India and China.

He won the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences award in economics by devising systems to understand consumption and poverty using household surveys and number crunching.

“Deaton’s focus on household surveys has helped transform development economics from a theoretical field based on aggregate data to an empirical field based on detailed individual data,” the academy said.

His decadeslong deep dive into data on the poor, their spending habits and their health gave him a surprisingly upbeat assessment of human progress, largely owed to the great strides that have been made in China and India. His book, “The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality,” documented why the world is a better place to live than it used to be.

A recent World Bank report suggested that more than one billion people might have been lifted out of extreme poverty already this century. Most of that progress was in China and India.

Here are a few of the things Mr. Deaton said in his book about the massive shifts in China and India that are changing the world.

On what China and India have taught us … “China and India are the success stories; rapid growth in large countries is an engine that can make a colossal dent in world poverty.”

On infant mortality in India and China … “India’s decline in infant mortality has been remarkably steady–not at all responsive to changes in the rate of growth–and the absolute decline from 165 out of every 1,000 babies dying in the early 1950s to 53 in 2005-10, is actually larger in absolute numbers than the decline in China, from 122 to 22.”

On how Chinese and Indian bodies have evolved with the economy… “Indian children are still among the skinniest and shortest on the planet but they are taller and plumper than were their parents or grandparents … Indians too are now growing taller decade by decade, though not as quickly as happened in Europe, or indeed as is now happening in China, where people are growing at about (the now familiar figure of) a centimeter every decade. Yet the Indian escape is only half as fast–about half a centimeter a decade–and that figure is for men; Indian women are growing too, but at a much slower rate, so that it takes them sixty years to grow a centimeter.”

On a better measure showing how China and India have lifted the world … “Although China and India are only two countries, their rapid growth at the end of the century meant that around 40% of the world’s population lived in countries that were growing very rapidly … (Thus) the average country grew at 1.5% a year in the half century after 1960, but the average person lived in a country that was growing at 3%.”

On how long the miracle can continue …  “At least over the past half-century the fast-growing countries in one decade have tended not to repeat their performance in the next or subsequent decades. Japan used to be the place that had perpetually high growth, until it didn’t any more. India, now one of the most rapidly growing countries, seemed capable of only slow growth for much of its existence, not to speak of the half-century that preceded its independence, when there was no growth at all. China is the current long-run superstar, but by historical standards the longevity of its growth spurt is extremely unusual.”

On the difficulty of defining poverty …  “In India, as in any country where a substantial fraction of the population is poor, there are millions of people who are close to poverty, either just above or just below the line … We don’t really know where the line should be, yet its precise position makes a huge difference. To put it more brutally, the truth is that we have little idea what we are doing.”

Source: Nobel Prize Winner Angus Deaton on the Chinese and Indian Miracles – China Real Time Report – WSJ


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