'Two sessions' bristling with sound bites that highlight past progress and future tasks

The telling example he cited hit home to a populace who is used to media stories of deadbeats lying to fiancées about their financial status and causing marriages to go sour.

The ongoing “two sessions” — the annual meetings of China’s top legislature and political advisory body — have generated a string of intriguing quotes and sound bites.

On March 10, Chen Yulu, vice governor of People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, told reporters at a press conference that social credit scoring services are increasingly used to vet would-be sons-in-law.

Chen said many mothers-in-law are demanding to see the credit score report produced by the bank before deciding to marry off their daughters.

His remarks came amid China’s efforts to build an all-encompassing social credit scoring system, so that those deemed untrustworthy will encounter difficulty in seeking social services or trying to obtain a bank loan.

The telling example he cited hit home to a populace who is used to media stories of deadbeats lying to fiancées about their financial status and causing marriages to go sour.

Chen said everyone can now visit the website of PBOC’s Credit Reference Center and check their credit scores for free on the first two attempts.

China’s social credit system has been an area of overlapping public and private sector efforts. The Credit Reference Center has been granted access to the credit database of 3,500-plus banks and financial institutions nationwide. Besides, it also is allowed to probe credit records of 990 million individuals and 2,600 private and public enterprises.

Chen said an average 5.55 million checks are conducted every day on the center’s website.

In addition to the government’s social credit affiliate, China has 125 credit scoring companies and 97 credit rating organizations, of which 80 percent are funded by private capital.

The continued progress of China’s credit system will provide an impetus to its bid to evolve into a society of strong social trust.

Rigorous preschool education

Another topic of widespread concern is preschool education. In an interview with national media, Hu Wei, a political adviser from Shanghai, said many preschoolers are at risk of being held to an academic rigor that is often applied to primary school pupils.

Many parents, driven by peer pressure, are sending their children to one tutorial after another. When the going gets too tough, it will hurt the physical and mental health of children, said Hu.

He is of the view that preschool education should be fun and critical to building up muscle power and physical fitness. Making preschoolers learn subjects like math and English before their time is against sound educational philosophy and practices, he claimed.

In a society filled with parents who are often described as da ji xue, or over-caffeinated, competing against each other in flaunting their “prodigious” sons and daughters, the desire to bless children with an advantage from the get-go is understandable, but never commendable.

Freedom of choice

Highlights of the “two sessions” keep coming; what has been an excitement to us all is a significant policy announcement concerning the nation’s 1.4 billion mobile users.

Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology, said that by the end of 2019 all mobile users will be able to retain their phone numbers and switch between different operators if they are not satisfied with the current services.

Pilot schemes are expected to begin soon. In the past, it was difficult to opt for another operator without losing the original mobile number. Miao’s announcement was a big step forward, not just because it grants individual users the freedom of choice, but because competition will encourage operators to retain customers through better services.

Signs of progress abound, but there also are bleak spots that keep letting us down. Soccer is one of them.

Chinese national men’s soccer is so deeply mired in a perennial sorry state of affairs that Gou Zhongwen, head of General Administration of Sports, which governs the sport, told journalists that “we (soccer officials) have to concede we didn’t do our job well.”

Gou said the crux of the problem is a failure to adequately execute necessary reforms, a perfunctory attitude toward reforms and a thirst for immediate results.

In the future, he and his colleagues will resolve to push through reforms, develop youth training and moderate their eagerness for immediate success, he said.

The good news is that we see a glimmer of hope in Wu Lei, arguably the best Chinese footballer we have now. Wu is faring well in the Spanish top-flight league. His performance has rekindled the hope of more Chinese footballers playing an exemplary role in lifting the level of the game at home.

So, in a sense, everything is improving, including the sport that we tend to crack jokes about. Good things come to those who work hard, and I’d like to conclude this article by invoking President Xi Jinping’s words, “let’s roll up our sleeves and work with added energies.”

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