During the most recent National People’s Congress, Chinese lawmakers voted to adopt the country’s first civil code. The new code will drastically change the face of marriage and divorce within the country. Since China’s one-child policy ended in 2015, the CCP has been devoted to advocating for policies that support ‘family values.’ Unlike the easing of laws related the family size, this code isn’t being so widely accepted by the people, and it may ultimately backfire against the objective behind it.
The History Of Leaping Without Looking Continues In China
The family marriage and divorce code is yet another government leap into the private lives of its citizens, and it’s spawned some heated national debate. Like many of the predecessor policies, it simply targets a specific goal and leaps ahead whilst ignoring the potential ramifications.
It’s this exact line of thought that created one-child policies, which has ultimately resulted in changing the population’s demographics. While it’s resulted in less bodies using natural resources and space, it’s also had dire demographic consequences. For example, much of China’s population is aging, leaving few younger workers and caretakers.
The one-child policy and its resulting demographic change has also left millions of Chinese men unable to find a wife. Males drastically outnumber females thanks to many families prioritizing ensuring that their one child was a boy to carry on the family name and help with the workload.
The government’s solution to the crisis created by family sizing laws is now to adopt ‘family values’ laws. Yet, it’s being done with the same disregard to future implications as the very laws that created the original problems.
COVID Impact On ‘Family Values’
Chinese divorce rates have been on the rise since the liberalization of divorce law back in 2003. In March 2020, as the Chinese people emerged from from weeks of government-mandated lockdowns, the media reported that China’s divorce rate skyrocketed to record-high numbers across many providences.
It has been the exact opposite of what Chinese officials had hoped would happen. Some municipalities had even put up propaganda posters to remind quarantined couples that creating a second child would help support their country. The goal was a baby boom, not a divorce boom. The new civil code is the latest response.
New Divorce Policy May Backfire
In 2011, China’s Supreme Court ruled that property rights during divorce were retained by the registered buyer, which is most often the man. The opposition argued that the law undermined women and deterred divorce, even in cases of domestic violence and adultery, because the wife is often left without any assets after the divorce. It didn’t deter the divorce rates, however. Three-fourths of divorces in China continue to be initiated by the wife.
In response to the population woes coupled with spiking divorce rates, Chinese officials adopted a new divorce and marriage code in 2020. The most highly debated and potentially harmful component is a new mandate for a “cooling off period.” Any couple seeking a divorce must now wait 30 days before the petition is even processed. The design is to mitigate impulse divorces, but what will be the cost of waiting to those in perilous marriages?
Onlookers say the main controversy here is that a spouse becomes further trapped in a marriage of abuse and neglect. Of course, the ‘trapped’ aspect also makes the notion of marriage less appealing to younger generations, which may further stifle China’s hope for a baby boom