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The Wake-Up Call in China's 'Visit Your Parents' Law

My father is 67-years-old, and lives in the sprawling outskirts of Guangzhou. I last saw him a year ago.
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Reuters

A month ago, under China’s new law dictating that all adult children have to go home and visit their elderly parents "frequently," a woman in Wuxi was ordered by a local court to see her 77-year-old mother, who had sued her for neglect. The ruling: visits every two months, plus financial support. The case was reported widely, calling attention to the effects of China’s rapid urbanization — and one-child policy — on the aging population, as younger adults have flocked from rural villages for jobs in the country’s huge cities. At the end of 2011, the Chinese population aged 60 and older was estimated at 185 million (about half were reported to live apart from their children). By the end of this year, that number is expected to balloon to 202 million.

China’s government is facing the massive burden of supporting its growing millions of elderly citizens at the exact same moment as a roaring urban economy is taking away the traditional filial support system.  So this odd new law is aimed at a very real problem: the rapidly declining Chinese extended family. As policy, it’s controversial — how do you legislate family love and loyalty, and what is it worth in yuan? Will the law backfire, making children resent their parents instead? What does "frequently" mean, and how do you enforce that, anyway? But as social commentary, it’s a wake-up call, and most everyone agrees that a new safety net needs to be put in place.