x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Visit mum. Or else

China's government takes a curious approach to family relations

Among China's several experiments in family planning, the best known is the one-child policy introduced in 1978, which restricted most couples to only a single offspring. At the time, facing a burgeoning population in a still predominantly agrarian society, Beijing considered the control necessary.

There have been sweeping consequences. There are many, many families that adore (not to mention spoil) their only child obsessively. There is also, however, a gender skew, as families opted for illegal gender selection in favour of boys; also, as the population ages, those single children often face the task of caring for two elderly parents.

Despite China's many economic and social advances, retirement and nursing-home facilities are still rare and expensive. With life expectancy on the rise, Beijing has come up with another interesting solution. According to the Associated Press, Beijing has passed legislation this month requiring adult children to visit their elderly parents "often" (while not specifying what that means). If they fail to do so, their parents can take them to court.

There is a venerable Confucian tradition here, but we wonder if the philosopher envisioned litigation. If normal parental persuasion doesn't make you feel guilty enough to pay a visit, will a lawsuit really do the trick?