Three more social media hot topics from this year’s Two Sessions — China’s annual political meeting

Society & Culture

In addition to the five popular proposals we highlighted last week, we explain three more subjects that had the Chinese internet buzzing in the past few days: Prohibiting single women from egg freezing, removing paywall of China’s largest database of academic papers, and curbing the rise of superfan culture.

As the first week of this year’s Two Sessions meetings draw to a close, delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s “top political advisory body,” have raised a variety of issues that have sparked nationwide discussions that may influence future policies and laws made by Chinese leaders.

In addition to the five popular proposals we highlighted last week, below are three more subjects that had the Chinese internet buzzing in the past few days:

1. Prohibiting single women from egg freezing

Before the meetings officially kicked off on May 21, a proposal about single women’s productive rights made the rounds on Chinese social media early last week, generating thousands of passionate responses from women’s rights activists and ordinary people. In the proposal, CPPCC delegate Péng Jìng 彭静, a law firm partner from Chongqing, called for legalizing single women’s access to egg freezing technologies, a service that’s currently ineligible for them according to China’s family-planning laws.

While reactions to the suggestion have been predominantly positive, the proposal also attracted a fair share of criticism. Over the weekend, Sūn Wěi 孙伟, an NPC delegate and a fertility doctor in Shandong, disclosed that she had prepared a motion that would bar medical facilities from providing egg freezing services to unmarried women.

In an interview (in Chinese) with, Sun said that she objected to Peng’s idea due to legal and medical concerns. “Before this type of technology proves to be completely safe, legalizing it without any restraints would encourage women to freeze their eggs and cause a burden on the country’s medical resources. It will also potentially create a black market for illegal activities like women selling their eggs or becoming surrogacy mothers,” she explained.

Like Peng’s proposal, Sun’s motion has provoked a flood of strong reactions from Chinese internet users, but most of them were negative and critical. “I have no plans of freezing my eggs anytime soon, but I absolutely abhor any regulations forbidding me from doing that,” a Weibo user wrote.

In response to the backlash, Sun said in a video interview (in Chinese) with the Beijing News yesterday that she had no intentions of “placing restrictions on single women’s reproductive rights” or “human rights in general.” Instead, she wanted to “educate” people about the best age for women to have babies. “Egg freezing is not the best approach for women who want kids. The best way is to find a boyfriend, get married, and have babies when you are young,” Sun said.

2. Removing paywall of China’s largest database of academic papers

In the Chinese academic sphere, it’s often said that the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) is more interested in becoming a monopoly in the academic publishing business and making huge profits than freeing up journal articles and expanding public access to knowledge.

According to Sixth Tone, due to government support and a series of policies working to its advantage, “CNKI by 2018 had grown to include nearly 1,300 exclusive top-rated journals and the most comprehensive database of master’s and doctorate papers — nearly half of which are only available on CNKI.” Meanwhile, despite intellectual property infringement accusations and frequent complaints about subscription price increases, the company’s revenues quadrupled from 230 million yuan ($32.3 million) in 2012 to 1 billion yuan ($140 million) in 2018.

Echoing many critical views about CNKI’s growth, CPPCC delegate Ní Mǐnjǐng 倪闽景, a education official in Shanghai, created a proposal asking CNKI to take down its paywall and make academic papers published on its platform freely accessible to Chinese people. “Technology should make gaining knowledge cheaper than before, but CNKI’s monopoly on academic papers has made the price higher than ever,” he said.

Ni also suggested that before CNKI completely embraces free access, it should at least let teengers read its articles for free.

3. Curbing the rise of superfan culture

On May 24, in a meeting among CPPCC and NPC delegates from Shandong, Sòng Wénxīn 宋文新, a high school vice principal, took aim at fànquān 饭圈, a popular cultural trend of teenage girls and young women being overzealous and obsessive about a male celebrity. During her talk (in Chinese), Song pointed out that some agencies have been purposefully leaking schedules of their pop stars to draw crowds at public locations such as airports, which, in some cases, “severely disrupted public order.” She also warned that celebrity worship should not be encouraged because it was a distraction for underage girls who should focus on school.

While Song did not mention any specific examples or news about fanquan, it’s likely that her suggestion was inspired by a string of recent news that revealed the dark side of the culture. In February, the Archive of Our Own (AO3), a global fanfiction website, was blocked by Chinese authorities after angry fans of Chinese actor Xiāo Zhàn 肖战 organized a campaign to report homosexual content featuring Xiao on the platform. In March, a middle school teacher was suspended after a viral video in which she encouraged students to view Xiao as their role model.