LiJia Zhang on China’s unfeasible plan of forcing people to visit their parents

LiJia Zhang, Beijing-based writer and the author of “Socialism Is Great! A Worker’s Memoir of the New China” published on July 15, 2013, an article in the Guardian UK about China’s unfeasible plan for the ‘grey tide’: force people to visit their parents.


The findings of the China health and retirement longitudinal study of Peking University, released in May, indicate that only 38% of the old people in China share the same roof with their offspring. Millions of farmers have left their poverty-stricken villages in search of a better life in the city; the educated urban dwellers also move away in droves to wherever jobs or opportunities take them. Young people prefer to set up their own homes, even if they live in the same city as their parents.

In response to the ever louder complaints by ageing parents of being abandoned, China this month introduced a new law, “the protection of the rights and interests of elderly people”, which demands that adult children visit their parents often as well as offering emotional support. As a centrally powered government, China readily takes up the legal weapon to cope with its issues. But I am not sure this law can work effectively.

Filial piety, once a cherished virtue, is now taking a back seat in China’s increasingly individualist society. And the faster pace of life and the higher work pressure make it harder for the children to spare some time for their parents. Yet it is a moral and a private issue. It is debatable if the authorities can just interfere by introducing a law.

In some cases, it is simply a question of feasibility. Many migrants can only afford the time and money to visit home once a year, usually during the lunar new year, the occasion for family reunion.

You can read the entire article here

Zhang LiJia is a rocket factory girl turned writer, journalist and social commentator.  She was born in 1964 and raised on the banks of the Yangtze River.  At 16, she was pulled out of school to work at a factory that produced inter-continental missiles.  As an escape route, she taught herself English.  After she went to England in 1990 LiJia dared to pursue her childhood dream by studying journalism.  Back in China a few years later, LiJia started her career as an assistant to foreign journalists before becoming a journalist of her own right.  Her features, often very human stories about the plight of China’s “little people”, have been published in South China Morning Post, Far Eastern Economic Review, Japan Times, The Independent, The Observer, Newsweek and The New York Times. Her widely acclaimed English-language memoir, “Socialism is Great!”chronicled LiJia’s decade-long experience at the rocket factory.  LiJia’s journey from a worker to a prominent social commentator reflects the great transformation undergone by China itself.  Zhang LiJia has been featured on the BBC, Channel 4, ABC (Australian) CNN, CBS and National Public Radio, among others.

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