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2020-01-07 09:08:28

An online debate show has a question for couples considering adding a new member of the family: Should they get their first child’s blessing to have a second?

During a recent episode of “I Can I BB” — the English name for “Qipa Shuo,” literally “weirdo talk” — the team of three debaters in favor said it was important to respect children by including them in the decision-making process, as they also bear certain responsibilities when it comes to rearing younger siblings.

“When a child has 100 candies in his hands, why should he mind sharing?” said Fu Shou’er, one of the debate participants. “When he has only two candies in his hand, how can you ask him to be generous?”

Airing semiweekly on streaming platform iQiyi since 2014, “I Can I BB” is currently in its sixth season, and draws millions of viewers with topics that appeal to young-adult audiences.

After it became clear that 35 years under the one-child policy had created an aging crisis in China, authorities eased family planning restrictions to allow couples to have a second child beginning in 2016. However, many couples have shown a reluctance to do so, given the financial burden of a child and their concurrent responsibility to care for two sets of aging parents.

Despite government programs aimed at incentivizing couples to have additional children, birth rates slumped in 2018, with the country seeing just 15.23 million new births that year — the lowest annual total since 1961, according to official data.

One of the guests on the show, Liang Jianzhang — a research professor of economics at Peking University and co-founder of the online travel company Trip.com — said that birth rates would continue to decline if parents began seeking their children’s permission to reproduce, thereby exacerbating China’s “aging society” problem. He added that more policies are needed to help families cope with the sometimes prohibitively high costs of parenthood.

Since Thursday’s broadcast, a hashtag about the topic has since been viewed over 370 million times on microblogging platform Weibo. Many online have suggested they wish they could have had a hand in deciding whether to have a sibling, while others have argued that parents shouldn’t be the only ones with a say in the matter.

“If there is another member joining the family, spending time with everyone for many years, then this is a huge deal for the existing family members,” wrote one Weibo user. “Such a thing should require the consent of every family member, including the first child.”

The opposing view was also well-represented among online commenters. “Having a second child is the parents’ own choice, and whether the first child agrees or disagrees is just an opinion,” another user wrote. “The parents are the ones who make the final decision.”

This article has been updated to reflect the current name for Trip.com, the online booking site formerly known as Ctrip.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Tuchong)