Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

08/02/2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai! What to expect in China’s Year of the Monkey – SCMP

The Year of the Monkey is expected to be another turbulent year for the world’s second largest economy. Here, SCMP reporters gaze into their crystal balls for what might lie ahead.

An installation celebrates the Year of the Monkey at Ditan Park in Beijing. Photo: EPA

POLITICS: Political jockeying and more crackdowns

The Communist Party will be focused on preparations for a new leadership team, to be unveiled at the 19th Party Congress next year. Apart from President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), the rest of the Politburo Standing Committee will have reached retirement age. The new appointments will be keenly observed for clues as to who Xi intends to succeed him.

Two of Xi’s signature campaigns – the drives against corruption and in favour of frugality in public life – are likely to continue to reshape the nation.

– Cary Huang

DIPLOMACY: Conflicts and tensions to escalate

Following Xi’s maiden presidential visit to the Middle East, Beijing is expected to increase its role as a broker in the region’s conflicts. Beijing has already hosted representatives from Syria and Afghanistan for talks. But other than calling for dialogue, China’s options are limited, partly because it does not want to be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of other nations.

With the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank having just started operations, China is expected to boost its economic diplomacy by funding infrastructure projects overseas.

Tensions in the South China Sea are also expected to rise, as China is likely to continue building structures in the disputed waters. How the United States and China handle the issue – especially the Pentagon’s deployment of warships within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-controlled islands – will be the biggest concern.

– Teddy Ng

DEFENCE: Band(s) of Brothers?

The top priority of the military will be to rebuild morale and its integrity following its restructuring into five theatre commands. Xi set the tone this month by visiting Jinggangshan, the cradle of the communist revolution in China. The Eastern Theatre Command’s land force quickly followed his lead and visited Gutian in Fujian (福建) province, where the Red Army pledged obedience to the party in 1929, and saluted the party flag. Other commands are expected to make similar displays of fidelity.

It will be a bumpy road: the old ways of managing operations, carrying out orders through personal connections and using favoured contractors, has been upended. Xi wants to turn the PLA into a fighting force that meets international standards, with all the efficiencies and accountability that entails.

– Minnie Chan

ECONOMY: Pandora’s Box to open?

There’s actually little disagreement between billionaire investor George Soros and Beijing decision-makers over China’s economic prospects in 2016 – both agree growth will be lower in 2016 than that of 2015. Where they disagree is on how much and how quickly.

One thing is for sure, China will never admit an economic “hard-landing”, though investors may find plenty of evidence for one – from factory closures to rising unemployment and financial strains.

– Zhou Xin

UNEMPLOYMENT: What’s the real picture?

Of all of China’s official economic indicators, the registered urban jobless rate is possibly the least reliable. The rate, released quarterly, has barely ever moved from 4.1 per cent in recent years, regardless of the economic cycle. Another jobless rate compiled by the statistics agency, which is increasingly being cited by the premier, claims a level of about 5 per cent.

Neither of these official rates are likely to change much throughout 2016.

– Zhou Xin

A-shares: Beware the bear!

The mainland’s stock market, after witnessing a sharp fall at the beginning of 2016, is expected to continue a bear run in the Year of Monkey amid a crisis of confidence.

A depreciating yuan, the imminent launch of the new initial public offering (IPO) mechanism and a bleak outlook for corporate earnings are set to exacerbate weak sentiment with millions of retail investors suffering paper losses following a market rout last year.

Local investors are increasingly betting on a further downturn in the A-share market.

Corporate earnings are likely to stay flat in 2016 despite Beijing’s increased efforts to navigate a transition to a consumer-led growth.

– Daniel Ren

Consumption: Bittersweet for retailers

Online stores are continuing to take business from their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

While overall consumption growth is expected to further slow in 2016, bringing problems for both sectors, shopping malls and big stores face their own particular woes.

Hypermarkets could see custom slow, but business at smaller formats such as mini-marts and convenience stores should remain stable.

People will continue to spend more on tourism, leisure, food and health-related products.

Domestic brands will continue to gain ground on foreign ones.

Women will continue to take a greater role in driving spending. Consulting firm Mintel found more than half of Chinese mothers control the family budget and that women are more willing to try new products and experiences than men.

– Mandy Zuo

E-commerce: Click, click, click to buy, buy, buy

The personal computer era is over. Mobile-commerce, which enables people to buy everything from anywhere via the internet, is dominating the online sector and this trend shows no sign of stopping.

Retail on WeChat, the most popular social media platform, is expected to grow steadily. The mobile platform is also becoming an important tool of advertising and communication for businesses.

Online to offline (O2O) business will continue to boom as mainlanders show growing interest and loyalty in professional home services such as home cleaning and massage.

With growing demand from mainland consumers for prime goods overseas, fiercer competition is expected in cross-border business. Internet giants, entrepreneurs and small businesses will flock to the sector, which the Ministry of Commerce projects will grow an average 30 per cent in the next few years.

– Mandy Zuo

P2P lending: More closures, collapses and runaway owners

The long-awaited regulations reining in peer-to-peer lending are expected to bring an industry shakeup that will knock out a significant number of players.

Industry data showed the number of P2P lending platforms dropped a second consecutive month to 2,566 at the end of January from 2,595 in December.

The draft rules, released by the China Banking Regulatory Commission at the end of 2015, define P2P lending platforms as internet financing intermediaries and forbid them from selling wealth management and other financial products that attract investors with promises of high returns.

– Kwong Man-ki

Tourism: Slowdown, what slowdown?

Despite the economic slowdown, the depreciation of the yuan and turmoil in the stock markets, Chinese tourists passed a milestone last year – making a record 120 million outbound trips and spending US$104.5 billion to make China the world’s leading source of tourists.

The boom is expected to continue this year, thanks to a relaxation in visa policies in more countries as well as a strong yuan against the euro and yen.

– Laura Zhou

Childbirth: More buns in the oven

The Year of the Monkey is traditionally regarded an auspicious year for giving birth, so it will prove popular with people planning families. Some of those may have delayed their plans from the Year of the Goat, which is decidedly inauspicious.

More of the newborns are likely to be second children, as parents seek to benefit from the new policy allowing all couples to have two children.

– Zhuang Pinghui

URBANISATION: Millions to relocate

Urbanisation will maintain its pace with millions relocating, most of them rural residents.

They will continue to move to cities near rivers, railway lines and coastlines and more of them will be migrating with spouses and children.

The policy of issuing residence permits to migrants and granting urban household registrations to rural residents are helping them to access public services and integrate in urban life.

– Zhuang Pinghui

ENVIRONMENT: More smoggy days?

As the new five-year plan period (2016-2020) begins, cities will need to set targets on how to improve water and air quality. But whether much can be done to reduce smog problems – especially in heavily polluted city clusters near Beijing and Shanghai – depends largely on how determined local governments are to slash overcapacity in heavy industries.

At the end of 2015, Beijing’s persistent smog pushed the city authorities to pledge better management of small-scale coal burning. If other cities follow suit, the move could impact China’s environmental footprint.

– Li Jing

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1910019/kung-hei-fat-choy-what-expect-chinas-year-monkey

01/01/2016

‘The Miraculous History of China’s Two Palace Museums’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

In late 1948 and early 1949, toward the end of the Chinese civil war, Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek transported across the Taiwan Strait hundreds of thousands of valuable Chinese artifacts which are now stored in Taipei’s National Palace Museum. Along with its Palace Museum counterpart in Beijing – more famous as the Forbidden City – the museums serve as one of the most poignant reminders of the division of China.

Beijing’s Palace Museum, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in October, was established shortly after the last Chinese emperor, Pu Yi, was forced from his palace, where he had been allowed to stay even after the Chinese republic was founded in 1911.

Intellectuals at the time wanted to set up a Chinese museum along the lines of the great museums in Europe.

Today, millions visit both museums each year, crowding around artifacts such as the Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-Shaped Stone in Taipei.

Among the visitors are huge tour groups of mainland Chinese tourists, as the Taipei government continues to liberalize travel policies for its neighbor amid a broader detente.

This week, a branch of the National Palace Museum housing exhibits from around Asia was inaugurated in the southern Taiwanese city of Chiayi.

In his book “The Miraculous History of China’s Two Palace Museums,” Hong Kong-based writer Mark O’Neill details the treacherous history of how some of China’s most precious artifacts were rescued from the invading Japanese imperial army in the 1930s and later transported to Taiwan, and the powerful symbolism of the museums.

Source: Writing China: Mark O’Neill, ‘The Miraculous History of China’s Two Palace Museums’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

30/12/2015

Top 10 policy changes in China in 2015

  1. Two children for all couples

China will allow all couples to have two children, abandoning its decades-long one-child policy, the Communist Party of China announced in late October. The change is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population.

Under the new policy, couples who have two children can enjoy longer maternity leave and they could have more than two children if eligible. Current longer marriage and maternity leaves enjoyed by citizens who marry late and delay having children will be removed, and so will the rewards for couples who volunteer to have only one child.

The two-child policy will come into force on Jan 1.

2. Raising the retirement age

The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) proposes progressively raising the retirement age to help address the country’s pension pressure and labor shortage.

On Nov 20, the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security said raising the retirement age will be done progressively in small steps. The authority will raise the retirement age by several months every year, and the policy adjustment will be made public in advance. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is drawing up the policy and will solicit public opinions on the completed draft.

In 2017, China should complete the integration of its two pension systems. From 2018, the retirement age for women should be raised one year every three years, and the retirement age for men should be raised one year every six years. This means in 2045, the retirement age for both men and women will be 65.

3. Household permits on the way for all

China will provide unregistered citizens with household registration permits, a crucial document entitling them to social welfare, according to a high–level reform meeting held in early December.

“It is a basic legal right for Chinese citizens to lawfully register for hukou. It’s also a premise for citizens to participate in social affairs, enjoy rights and fulfill duties,” said a statement released on Dec 9 after a meeting of the central leading group for comprehensively deepening reform.

The meeting was told that registration should take place regardless of family planning and other policy limits, and that those without hukou who face difficulties in applying should have their problems solved.

4. Unified pension system

The landmark pension reform plan, announced by the State Council on Jan 14, aims to eliminate the dual-track pension system in China.

New measures on old-age insurance were unveiled for the nearly 40 million workers in government agencies and public institutions, most of whom are civil servants, doctors, teachers and researchers. Insurance will now be paid by both workers and organizations, instead of just by organizations or central finance as in the past.

Before the measures were introduced, corporate employees had to pay for their own old-age insurance, while government staff enjoyed pensions without making any contribution at all. The reform helps to bring fairness and quench long-term public outcry.

5. Rural residents encouraged to buy properties in cities

China will roll out measures to reduce its property inventory and stabilize its ailing housing market, said a statement released on Dec 21 after a key policy meeting.

Rural residents relocating to urban areas should be allowed to register as city residents, which would enable them to buy or rent property, according to the conference.

In addition, a low-rent public housing program will cover those without household registration.

6. Harsher environmental protection law

China’s revised Environmental Protection Law came into effect on Jan 1, bringing with it heavier punishments.

According to the revised law, extra fines accumulating on a daily basis will be imposed on enterprises that fail to rectify violations.

Local officials may be demoted or sacked for misconduct, including the concealment of offenses, falsifying data, failing to publicize environmental data, and not giving closure orders to enterprises that illegally discharge pollutants.

7. Entrepreneurship encouraged among college students

The Ministry of Education announced in May that more than 30 measures would be introduced to support students starting their own businesses, and for innovation in scientific and academic research.

The measures are outlined in a series of guidelines released by the State Council, including developing and opening compulsory and selective courses for students, and awarding them credits for taking the courses.

Establishing innovation and entrepreneurship records, with transcripts for students, encouraging teachers to guide students in innovation and starting up businesses, and providing them with funds and supporting them to take part in entrepreneurship contests are also on the list.

8. New plan targets water pollution

China released the Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control on April 16 to tackle serious water pollution, aiming to intensify government efforts to reduce emissions of pollutants and to protect supplies.

The plan calls for 70 percent of the water in the country’s seven major river basins, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, to be in good condition by 2020, and for a continued improvement to 75 percent by 2030.

The amount of “black and smelly water” in urban areas will be reduced to 10 percent by 2020 and will largely disappear by 2030.

9. Toughest smoking ban in Beijing

A new regulation on tobacco use took effect in Beijing on June 1. The regulation extends existing smoking bans to include all indoor public areas and workplaces, plus a number of outdoor areas, including schools, seating areas in sports stadiums and hospitals where women or children are treated.

Violators will face fines of up to 200 yuan ($32), a twentyfold increase from the previous 10-yuan penalty stipulated by the previous regulation adopted in 1996. Owners of buildings classified as public places, such as restaurants, that fail to stop smokers lighting up face fines of up to 10,000 yuan.

Members of the public can report violations to the authorities by dialing a health hotline (12320) or via social media.

10. Price control on most medicines lifted

China has lifted price controls on most medicines since June 1 with the intention of creating a more market-driven pricing system that will help keep medical costs in check.

Only narcotics and some listed psychotropic drugs continue to be controlled by the government, with ceiling retail prices.

Public health departments must boost supervision on medical institutions and check improper medicine and medical equipment use, as well as excessive checkups and treatment, according to a notice issued in May.

From: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-12/28/content_22835045.htm

21/12/2015

Panda power | The Economist

THE feeding frenzy for the pandas comes at nightfall. People furtively approach them, pouring bags of old clothes down their gullets.

By day, the trucks arrive to clean the bears out, leaving them empty for the next big meal. The pandas are plastic. They are large, bear-shaped receptacles, designed to entice people to donate their unwanted garments to those in need.

First deployed in 2012, there are now hundreds around Shanghai, often placed by entrances to apartment buildings. They swallowed about a million items of clothing last year. The procession of donors feeding trousers to pandas is impressive. But they usually do so under cover of darkness. Charitable giving is not yet a middle-class habit. Many people still feel awkward about it, despite their growing prosperity. China’s GDP per person is about one-seventh of America’s.

But in 2014 Chinese gave 104 billion yuan ($16 billion) to charity, about one-hundredth of what Americans donated per person (see chart). This is partly a legacy of attitudes formed during Mao’s rule, when the party liked to present itself as the source of all succour for the poor (to suggest otherwise was deemed counter-revolutionary). Even until more recent years the party was reluctant to encourage charities, worried that they might show up its failings.

The middle classes have worries too—that giving large amounts to charity may draw unwanted attention to their wealth. They do not want to fuel the envy of the have-nots or encourage tax collectors to pay them closer attention.

The top 100 philanthropists in China gave $3.2 billion last year, according to Hurun Report, a wealth-research firm based in Shanghai. That was less than the amount given by the top three in America.

In 2008 when a powerful earthquake hit the south-western province of Sichuan—the deadliest in China in more than 30 years—it seemed that one positive outcome would be a boom in charitable giving. Volunteers poured into the devastated region and donations filled the coffers of aid organisations. Problems soon arose, however. Embarrassed that private relief efforts were proving more effective than official ones, the government reined in citizen-led organisations.

Source: Panda power | The Economist

21/12/2015

Shifting barriers | The Economist

THE pillars of social control are flaking at the edges.

First came the relaxation in October of draconian family-planning restrictions. Now it is the turn of the household-registration, or hukou, system, which determines whether a person may enjoy subsidised public services in urban areas—rural hukou holders are excluded. On December 12th the government announced what state media trumpeted as the biggest shake-up in decades of the hukou policy, which has aggravated a huge social divide in China’s cities and curbed the free flow of labour.

The pernicious impact of the system, however, will long persist. As with the adjustment to the decades-old family-planning policy (now all couples will be allowed to have two children), the latest changes to the hukou system follow years of half-hearted tinkering. They will allow migrant workers to apply for special residency permits which provide some of the benefits of an urban hukou (a booklet proving household registration is pictured above).

If an urban hukou is like an internal passport, the residency permit is like a green card. Under the arrangements, migrants will be able to apply for a permit if they have lived in a city for six months, and can show either an employment contract or a tenancy agreement. The document will allow access to state health care where the migrants live, and permit their children to go to local state schools up to the age of 15. It will also make other bureaucratic things easier, like buying a car. Such reforms have already been tried in some cities. They will now be rolled out nationwide.

For those who meet the requirements, the changes will bring two main benefits. They should allow some of the 70m children who have been left behind to attend school in their native villages to join their migrant parents. And it will allow migrants to use urban services without losing the main benefit of their rural hukou: the right to farm a plot of land. According to a survey in 2010 by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 90% of migrants did not want to change their registration status because they feared losing this right.

Source: Shifting barriers | The Economist

04/12/2015

China’s Tech Industry Is as Male-Dominated as Silicon Valley – China Real Time Report – WSJ

When Chinese President Xi Jinping met with top U.S. and Chinese technology executives in Seattle two months ago, they posed for a now-famous group photo. But one thing was missing: women from China.

As WSJ’s Li Yuan writes in her “China Circuit” column: This defies the conventional wisdom in China that compared with Silicon Valley, China’s tech industry has less of a gender-inequality problem. True, women accounted for nine out of 30 Alibaba partners when it went public in 2014. Both Alibaba and Baidu’s chief financial officers are women. Some of China’s most prominent venture capitalists are women, too.

But the group photo attests to what is really happening behind the success stories: China’s tech industry is as male-dominated as that of Silicon Valley. And unlike the debate and discussions taking place in Silicon Valley about gender inequality, China’s tech industry has yet to acknowledge the problem. With the​tech sector becoming the brightest spot in a sluggish economy, women risk losing out in the competition for the best-paying jobs and the best opportunities to start their own businesses.

Source: China’s Tech Industry Is as Male-Dominated as Silicon Valley – China Real Time Report – WSJ

04/12/2015

Selective Equality? China Retirement Age Plan Sparks Backlash Among Women – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s policy makers have long accepted the need for workers to delay retirement to ease social and fiscal pressures from a rapidly aging population. Few, however, could agree on how to do it.

This week, state-backed researchers fueled fresh debate on the issue with a new proposal on how to coax more productive years out of China’s silver-haired generation. They called for gradually extending the country’s statutory retirement thresholds over the next three decades, culminating in a flat retirement age of 65 years. But their plan is proving unpopular. It is particularly striking a nerve among some women, who in China can retire between five and ten years earlier than men. The statutory retirement age for men is set at 60 years.

On social media, many female users mocked what they perceived as selective pursuit of gender equality. “In 2045, would there be equal pay between men and women? Would men be able to give birth?” a user, who identified as female, wrote on the popular Weibo microblogging service. “Chinese society, in reality, is rife with gender inequality; why bring about gender equality in retirement age?” another user wrote.

In an online survey, the state-run China National Radio found nearly 80% of respondents objected to setting a flat retirement age for men and women. “Delaying retirement is understandable, but setting the same retirement age for men and women isn’t compatible with our country’s conditions,” CNR quoted a Weibo user as saying. “Men would only have to work five more years, while women would have to work ten years longer. And women still have to face family pressures, so it’s clearly unsuitable.”

The proposal from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences comes amid a longstanding debate in government and academic circles on how to implement a much-needed but deeply unpopular policy. Beijing has said it will gradually raise retirement thresholds starting in 2022, though the policy would only be finalized in 2017. Under rules unchanged since the 1950s, China allows most female workers to retire when they turn 50, while women in public-sector jobs can do so at 55 years of age. To change this, the CASS researchers proposed that the government could in 2017 set a flat retirement age for women at 55 years, eliminating the distinction between private and public-sector workers. Authorities could begin extending retirement thresholds—for men and women—at a fixed pace, starting in 2018.

CASS researchers suggest adding a year to the female retirement age every three years, while doing so for men every six years. Beijing could also allow flexibility for workers to bring forward or delay their retirement by up to five years, on the condition that their pension payouts would be adjusted accordingly, CASS said.

Source: Selective Equality? China Retirement Age Plan Sparks Backlash Among Women – China Real Time Report – WSJ

02/12/2015

China Road Rage Cases Top 17 Million So Far in 2015 – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Chinese police attributed 80,200 traffic accidents in 2013 to road rage, and the number rose by 2.4% in 2014. Men account for 97% of road rage incidents, official data show.

No Caption Available.

China is a notoriously dangerous place for driving in general. The World Health Organization has estimated that 261,000 people died on China’s roads in 2013. Chinese government data show that last year 1,895 people died in traffic accidents when crossing roads, and 4,180 people died between 2011 and 2014 on public buses that were speeding or overloaded.

Yet when it comes to the surge in road rage, experts point to a range of possible explanations. One is that the rapid development of China’s car market has led the country’s roads to become increasingly crowded, creating frustration and anger on the streets. Sociologists also link road rage to general anxiety and fickleness, one of the side products of China’s rapid economic growth — and its accompanying social pressure — over the past three decades.

In China, the total number of vehicles has increased by more than 18 million cars for each of the past five years. As of the end of October, China had 169 million autos, according to Ministry of Public Security statistics, next only to the U.S.’s 240 million. The number of license-holders has risen even more quickly; since 2010, China has added more than 20 million new drivers each year. Now one in five Chinese has a license.

The country’s infrastructure has struggled to keep up. Data from the Ministry of Public Security show that 35 Chinese cities now have more than one million automobiles. Ten of those cities — including Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen – each have more than two million cars on the road. But while the number of China’s motor vehicles and drivers has each risen more than 20-fold since 1987, the country’s road capacity has increased only 3.4 times over the same period.

The rash of new drivers is also posing safety hazards. The official Xinhua News Agency cited a spokesman from the Ministry of Public Security as saying that drivers with less than one year of experience play a large role in traffic accidents. To be sure, China has some safety regulations in place. For example, drivers and front-seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts, and the use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited. But these laws are often ignored in practice. Distracted driving – operating a vehicle while texting, talking on the phone, watching videos, eating or reading – contributed to more than a third of fatal traffic accidents in 2014, causing 21,570 deaths, the Ministry of Public Security said.

Chinese authorities are working to counter the trend. In the past month, the Ministry of Public Security launched a public education campaign on road etiquette after several high-profile cases of road rage violence this year. It advocated against dangerous driving behaviors including street racing, drunk driving, aggressive driving and blocking emergency lanes.

Source: China Road Rage Cases Top 17 Million So Far in 2015 – China Real Time Report – WSJ

27/11/2015

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).

http://shareably.net/little-boy-and-girl-sing-you-raise-me-up-on-chinese-show/

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24/11/2015

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

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