A law to visit your parents

China, for all of its seeming success, is also having its problems.  But it is trying to address them:

Under a proposal submitted last Monday by the Civil Affairs Ministry to China’s State Council, adult children would be required by law to regularly visit their elderly parents. If they do not, parents can sue them. . . .

Concerns about how to care for China’s older people are growing as the nation’s population rapidly gets older, wealthier and more urbanized. China has the world’s third highest elderly suicide rate, trailing only South Korea and Taiwan, according to Mr. Jing, who compiled figures from the World Health Organization and Taiwan. The figures show a disturbing increase in suicides among the urban elderly in the past decade, a trend Mr. Jing blames partly on urbanization.

Once ensconced in intimate neighborhoods of courtyard houses and small lanes and surrounded by relatives and acquaintances, older people in China are increasingly moving into lonely high-rises and feeling forgotten, he said.

via In China, a Move to Mandate Closer Families – NYTimes.com.

Actually, I salute China for this.  Not the statist part, but the proposed law would be a reversion to the old pre-Communist Confucian culture, which venerated aged ancestors.

Do you think we might be reduced to that?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Jack K

    I served as a Chaplain’s Assistant at the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery headquarters in Pubwon-nyi, South Korea mid 1963 to mid 1964.

    Pubwon-nyi was surrounded by military compounds. It was a little village with dirt streets. The intersection in the village was called Mickey Mouse Corners.

    I was in awe of the way that the folks in this ancient culture made certain that their elderly were taken care of. They were treated with the utmost respect by their children, who repaid their parents for their care when they were dependent.

    I saw a picture of Pubwon-nyi a couple of years ago. It showed Mickey Mouse Corners with concrete sidewalks, asphalt streets and a traffic signal.

    Gone, apparently is also the wonderful treatment that the elderly received from their children. Now it seems that South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the elderly.

    One wonders how this change in culture came about.

  • Jack K

    I served as a Chaplain’s Assistant at the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery headquarters in Pubwon-nyi, South Korea mid 1963 to mid 1964.

    Pubwon-nyi was surrounded by military compounds. It was a little village with dirt streets. The intersection in the village was called Mickey Mouse Corners.

    I was in awe of the way that the folks in this ancient culture made certain that their elderly were taken care of. They were treated with the utmost respect by their children, who repaid their parents for their care when they were dependent.

    I saw a picture of Pubwon-nyi a couple of years ago. It showed Mickey Mouse Corners with concrete sidewalks, asphalt streets and a traffic signal.

    Gone, apparently is also the wonderful treatment that the elderly received from their children. Now it seems that South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the elderly.

    One wonders how this change in culture came about.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Yes, suing your children is a great way to improve relationships with them….
    I don’t think this is a return to anything. It is an adoption of a modern notion that you can fix social ills by passing laws. There is a limitation to what a law can do.
    These social ills are created by the destruction of a culture, that is being replaced by a new culture, and the children will reap what they have sewn.
    One needs a bit more imagination to fix this sort of problem, and it will not be a quick fix. But I think it starts with the arts.
    Liturature, films, music reaching the people and instilling values that create culture. Doing what you can to foster culture and community would also help. Like creating places where the community can gather, drink coffee or tea, and discuss the latest movie, their own family problems maybe, Maybe even just meet their neighbors and the children.
    In the past the church has helped in these things also. It has also hurt when do gooders get a hold of it and start using it as a platform to pass more laws. Methodism for instance, and not just the denomination, but the whole theology of Wesley, has done more harm in these matters than good in the united states. Who knows what it is like in China.
    As the old saying goes, laws don’t change hearts.
    Good pastors no this. Brow beating a person with the law rarely gets anyone to change behavior. Forgiving them in the name of Christ, and inspiring them to do better has a greater success rate in that arena. But you always have to keep in mind you are working with sinners like yourself, and no one will ever be completely free of sin either. That is why you have to keep showering them in forgiveness.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Yes, suing your children is a great way to improve relationships with them….
    I don’t think this is a return to anything. It is an adoption of a modern notion that you can fix social ills by passing laws. There is a limitation to what a law can do.
    These social ills are created by the destruction of a culture, that is being replaced by a new culture, and the children will reap what they have sewn.
    One needs a bit more imagination to fix this sort of problem, and it will not be a quick fix. But I think it starts with the arts.
    Liturature, films, music reaching the people and instilling values that create culture. Doing what you can to foster culture and community would also help. Like creating places where the community can gather, drink coffee or tea, and discuss the latest movie, their own family problems maybe, Maybe even just meet their neighbors and the children.
    In the past the church has helped in these things also. It has also hurt when do gooders get a hold of it and start using it as a platform to pass more laws. Methodism for instance, and not just the denomination, but the whole theology of Wesley, has done more harm in these matters than good in the united states. Who knows what it is like in China.
    As the old saying goes, laws don’t change hearts.
    Good pastors no this. Brow beating a person with the law rarely gets anyone to change behavior. Forgiving them in the name of Christ, and inspiring them to do better has a greater success rate in that arena. But you always have to keep in mind you are working with sinners like yourself, and no one will ever be completely free of sin either. That is why you have to keep showering them in forgiveness.

  • Jonathan

    I think that if it ever came to it, a law that creates a legal duty of care for children of elderly parents might be able to withstand constitutional scrutiny if it is written narrowly enough. It might be challenged on the basis of equal protection, however, as you could argue that the burden of the law is potentially harsher on an only-child than on multiple siblings. But then again, it’s not like the law wouldn’t potentially apply to everyone, as everyone has a parent who may be covered under the law.

    Instead, how about applying the 4th commandment to honor one’s parents (and parent figures)? After all, it comes with a blessing that you will live long on the earth, and then you’ll have your opportunity to get to be a burden to your children also.

    As to how the culture change in China came about, maybe it is related to their one-child law. If parents can be forced to have abortions to eliminate the burden of additional children on society, why should these only-children feel beholdened to care for their elderly parents? You know, what’s sauce for the goose and all.

  • Jonathan

    I think that if it ever came to it, a law that creates a legal duty of care for children of elderly parents might be able to withstand constitutional scrutiny if it is written narrowly enough. It might be challenged on the basis of equal protection, however, as you could argue that the burden of the law is potentially harsher on an only-child than on multiple siblings. But then again, it’s not like the law wouldn’t potentially apply to everyone, as everyone has a parent who may be covered under the law.

    Instead, how about applying the 4th commandment to honor one’s parents (and parent figures)? After all, it comes with a blessing that you will live long on the earth, and then you’ll have your opportunity to get to be a burden to your children also.

    As to how the culture change in China came about, maybe it is related to their one-child law. If parents can be forced to have abortions to eliminate the burden of additional children on society, why should these only-children feel beholdened to care for their elderly parents? You know, what’s sauce for the goose and all.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Bror, beat me to it. What he said. Also, I am not sure we want the to return to their veneration of ancestors, I am pretty sure it is not wise to encourage a person to merely switch idols.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Bror, beat me to it. What he said. Also, I am not sure we want the to return to their veneration of ancestors, I am pretty sure it is not wise to encourage a person to merely switch idols.

  • http:theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    I think that China is beginning to see that their “Cultural Revolution” has had effects far beyong their wildest ken. Sometimes I think that one can atribute certain, how should I put it, undesireable characteristics in regular Russian folk one meets (characteristics that go beyond mere cultural difference), to the negative effects of the Revolution and the soul-destroying Communism that follwed on the culture.

  • http:theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    I think that China is beginning to see that their “Cultural Revolution” has had effects far beyong their wildest ken. Sometimes I think that one can atribute certain, how should I put it, undesireable characteristics in regular Russian folk one meets (characteristics that go beyond mere cultural difference), to the negative effects of the Revolution and the soul-destroying Communism that follwed on the culture.

  • DonS

    Bror @ 2 said it well.

    Obviously, the Chinese government has chosen to treat the symptoms, rather than the underlying condition. Worse yet, it has chose the same statist treatment which caused the underlying condition in the first place.

  • DonS

    Bror @ 2 said it well.

    Obviously, the Chinese government has chosen to treat the symptoms, rather than the underlying condition. Worse yet, it has chose the same statist treatment which caused the underlying condition in the first place.

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    Also, China has a mandatory retirement age of 55. Wow – that is early in one’s life to restrict their work. I met a couple at Church last week who were 80 and 84 – with long and interesting careers – and they are still very active art dealers. When the government tells you “go to the park and hang out and do some exercises” that could really deflate the human spirit. Freedom is a great thing. Top down solutions tend to crush.

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    Also, China has a mandatory retirement age of 55. Wow – that is early in one’s life to restrict their work. I met a couple at Church last week who were 80 and 84 – with long and interesting careers – and they are still very active art dealers. When the government tells you “go to the park and hang out and do some exercises” that could really deflate the human spirit. Freedom is a great thing. Top down solutions tend to crush.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    This news is kind of old hat. I seem to recall reading an old book somewhere where the authority passed down a law about honouring your father and mother… And lest we say they are not quite the same thing, I’d point out that failing to obey that particular law had far more severe consequences than merely being sued: see, for example, Exodus 21:15,17 and Deuteronomy 21:18-21.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    This news is kind of old hat. I seem to recall reading an old book somewhere where the authority passed down a law about honouring your father and mother… And lest we say they are not quite the same thing, I’d point out that failing to obey that particular law had far more severe consequences than merely being sued: see, for example, Exodus 21:15,17 and Deuteronomy 21:18-21.

  • Rider-Soldier

    china law-one child-all others-murdered (aborted) -
    as ye sew so shall ye also reap-
    the Creator took action on the shedding of innocent blood-Is 59-
    if the old promote murder of the young (unborn) – why should the luckily born respect them!?
    R-S

  • Rider-Soldier

    china law-one child-all others-murdered (aborted) -
    as ye sew so shall ye also reap-
    the Creator took action on the shedding of innocent blood-Is 59-
    if the old promote murder of the young (unborn) – why should the luckily born respect them!?
    R-S


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