Unusual proposals from 2019’s “Two Meetings”
“It’s hard enough coming up with one recommendation every 10 years, to say nothing of one every year”— Lei Xianhe, film director and member of the Taiwan League of the Central Committee of the PRC.
One of the few distractions from the monotony of the annual Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) meetings has traditionally been the outlandish policies suggested by representatives seemingly plumb out of ideas.
Recent editions of the “Two Sessions” have been tamer than decades past, when previous representatives proposed giving “broken families” the right to sue mistresses for damages, or suggested levying a 3-percent income tax on all working adults under 50 to put toward their parents’ retirement. Instead, most headlines from this year’s meetings (which end on March 20) have been about serious proposals, such as ending discrimination against unwed parents or lowering the age of criminal responsibility. But some delegates did not disappoint; here are five of the most creative proposals.
Ningxia CPPCC representative Cui Bo proposed raising taxes on luxury items in order to promote “thrifty consumption” among youths, apparently misunderstanding the point of buying luxury goods.
NPC delegate Feng Qiya believes mandatory physical examinations should be reinstated for parties applying for a marriage license. The exam was made optional under the PRC’s Marriage Law in 2003, but Feng believes that full disclosure will reduce the number of “congenitally deficient infants, which are a burden on society.” The exam, though, covers many aspects of women’s reproductive health and both partners’ medical history, prompting debate about the invasion of privacy.
NPC delegate Chen Jingyu has suggested printing “scary warning photos” (warning: potentially disturbing photos) on cigarette cartons in order to discourage smoking. This is common practice in countries like Thailand and South Korea, where photos of diseased lungs, cancerous gums, and babies born with health defects are plastered on cartons to encourage quitters.
Perhaps inspired by viral tales of enfants terribles, CPPCC delegate Liu Rucheng recommended “classes for parents” on how to raise their children, stating, “We collect many certificates in life, but parenting is the only thing which isn’t studied.” (It’s not clear who is supposed to provide such instruction, but Toutiao news notes that similar classes are available at some kindergartens).
Unrelatedly, NPC delegate Li Guangyu wants to prohibit actual schools from asking parents to correct their children’s homework, and perform “voluntary” tasks like cleaning the classroom or security duty.
Currently only top leaders get the full works, with half-mast flags and a military salute (although an exception is made for disasters, such as the victims of 2008’s Wenchuan Earthquake). But CPPCC delegate Zhang Li of Sichuan dreams of a future in which everybody is entitled to a “state” funeral. Under this scheme, the transport, cremation and burial of the deceased would become a “basic public service,” available inexpensively to the general public, or free below the poverty line. The high costs and low standards of China’s under-regulated funeral industry “affect the common people’s sense of reward” from the experience, according to Zhang.
Jobs for seniors
CPPCC delegate and TV host Bai Yansong wants to create a “job market for able-bodied seniors,” in order to “reduce burdens” on young people, stave off the boredom of retirement, and help make retirees financially stable. Netizens, though, aren’t relishing the increased competition, and wonder what company would hire workers with diminishing health. Lifeweek magazine argues that the policy would reduce the birthrate even further, as many young parents depend on retired grandparents to raise children.
Cover image from VCG