Flicking through the channels on Chinese TV or the well-known online video sites, you won’t find any signs of prolonged or provocative kissing scenes, a hint of sexual freedom, one-night stands, extramarital affairs, wife swapping, eating bananas sexily or even homosexuality. But pop down to the local convenience store and right at the counter, by the tea eggs and pork buns, you’ll have you pick from a liberal display of contraceptives, lubes and battery-operated accessories.
Beijing is trying to strike a fine balance between keeping the populous pure and innocent, while ensuring they maintain healthy sexual relations. This emphasis seems have gathered momentum of late as removing the one-child policy has failed to move the dial for China’s fertility rates. With the number of women between the ages of 20 and 39 expected to drop by more than 39 million over the next decade, the Party is ramping up efforts to encourage more Chinese babies to support the ballooning elderly population starting to enter retirement age.
There have been some curious policy changes to increase birth rates, with some provinces tightening access to abortion and others making it more difficult to get divorced. Even the all-powerful state media may want to refine some of its messaging to resonate with would-be parents, such as the article in Xinhua suggesting taxing adults under 40 for a reproductive fund, and a People’s Daily editorial noting “the birth of a baby is not only a matter of the family itself, but also a state affair.”
Yet one of the positives from Beijing’s conception drive is we’re likely to see more open discussion on the subject. This is something China dearly needs considering as many as 80% of Chinese adults have misunderstandings about contraception.
Through a combination of Beijing’s focus and an increasingly worldly consumer base, we’re starting to see more liberal conversation about sex-related topics in China. Last Friday’s Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, highlighted this with more releases of surveys related to sex than we’ve seen before in China. NetEase didn’t hold back with its survey findings, revealing that 30-35 year olds are the most sexually active age group in China, but almost half of China’s Post-90s (18-28 year olds) have no sex life. Alibaba also released its own research coinciding with the Qixi festival, disclosing that condom sales peaked at midnight as part of their analysis into what Chinese do after dark.
With other research pointing to Chinese aged 19-29 becoming less interested in sex, we can expect to see Beijing introducing further initiatives in hope of nudging the population to become a little more frisky. When Beijing gets behind something, businesses will usually follow. Brands still shouldn’t be getting too raunchy in their communications, but the state-led drive coupled with the resulting awareness and openness are things to keep in mind across many categories. China Skinny can help you keep up to speed with these developments.
On a more wholesome note, China Skinny’s Andrew Atkinson is speaking at CPhI Korea in Seoul on 30 August sharing wisdom about China’s current health food climate and what brands and producers need to know. Make sure to sign up before today’s deadline if you plan on heading along, and please come over to say hi. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.