x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

China's octuplets

Behaviour of China's wealthy not going down well with massive online community.

What does it mean when the number of children becomes a status symbol? China's blogosphere is now coming to grips with that idea.

It has recently emerged that an affluent Chinese couple spent nearly 1 million yuan (Dh580,000) to hire - against the law - two surrogate mothers to help to deliver eight babies, four boys and four girls. In a country that limits most parents to a single child, the news has been received with incredulity.

Setting aside questions about family planning and the one-child policy, the case highlights another trend in China: the wealthy and the connected are increasingly being exposed online.

The country's vibrant internet culture, which now has the most web users of any country in the world, has challenged privileges that were sacrosanct just a few years ago. And some of the exposes have shaken the society to the core. As one example, there was the case of a young man, the son of the deputy police chief in Baoding, who ran over two students while drink driving, killing one. When he was apprehended, he warned: "My father is Li Gang" before driving off.

That has now become a punchline for China's massive online community, a signal of the abuse of power. The attention to the case quickly resulted in the man's prosecution. As these eight new babies start life, they will grow up in a very different China indeed.