The Chinese authorities are not just clamping down on celebrities for their excesses or “unhealthy’ fandoms, but setting the ground rules for media portrayals of gender norms of appearance and behaviour. In particular, the "effeminate aesthetics" of male celebrities and female influencers marketing themselves in Chinese temples have come under attack. But why are Chinese women feeling targeted? Are these necessary actions to moderate the internet economy or just signs of an over-the-top paternalistic bent?
The alleged rape case involving a former Alibaba manager kept netizens riveted as charges were dropped as quickly as arrests were made. Unlike the #MeToo movement in the West where many of the victims rally around each other to seek justice against their oppressors, in China, the female victims — those preyed upon and the wives of the alleged perpetrators — seem to be fighting each other in the aftermath of tragedies. Why aren’t the males involved manning up and owning up?
George Yeo, Singapore’s former foreign minister, shares his thoughts on China’s evolution with Lianhe Zaobao on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. He sees the milestone as just a pitstop in the long journey of the Chinese nation. Fresh thinking and innovation will be needed as the country progresses. Equally important, developing a “broad-minded and big-hearted nationalism” which is humble and learns from others will keep China on the path of being a great nation. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.
Respect. Lorna Wei says the nub of the issue in the low fertility rate in China lies in that one word. Growing up in a patriarchal society, daughters in China have for years been looked upon as second to sons. When they become wives, mothers and daughters-in-law, they shoulder the bulk of familial duties while trying to keep their jobs. Any fertility policy should first address greater equality between the sexes. Only when parents are assured that their burdens will be shared can they look forward to having more children.
Han Dongping points out that the views of the rural population in China should be taken into account in the three-child policy or other population policies. They were the most affected group when the the one-child policy was implemented decades ago. The government made the mistake of not consulting them then, alienating their stronghold of support in the process. They should not make the mistake again.
In China, the term involution (内卷, neijuan) has been used to refer to various forms of inward spiral, regression or stagnation. Applied to education, it is the vicious cycle of kids being primed and plumbed for their potential. Cram-style preschool education, intense competition for places in elite schools, crazy property prices in school districts... the list goes on. If no one steps off the wheel, is there no end in sight?
Providing better support for families to play effective co-parenting roles is more likely to improve birth rates than sending women back to the kitchen, says Chen Jing.
Han Heyuan asserts that rising property prices in China are not just the “biggest grey rhino” in terms of financial risks as some policymakers have said, but also a catalyst for a slew of development and social issues such as the lack of entrepreneurs, negative attitudes to work, and falling birth rates.