Jun 6th 2020BACK IN 1991, when China passed its first stand-alone adoption law, state-run orphanages routinely gave foundlings the surnames “Dang” (
BACK IN 1991, when China passed its first stand-alone adoption law, state-run orphanages routinely gave foundlings the surnames “Dang” (meaning Party) or “Guo” (meaning Country). These unusual names marked children for life and were meant to. That way foundlings would not forget what they owed the Communist Party. Such names were banned in all orphanages only in 2012.
It is a mark of how China has changed that its first-ever Civil Code, a fat volume of laws covering everything from marriage to property rights, approved on May 28th, revises adoption rules to make it easier for children to be raised in private homes. A big change eliminates the rule that—except in special cases, for instance involving adoptions of disabled children from orphanages—only childless Chinese may adopt. From next year, the childless will be allowed to adopt two children, whereas parents with one biological child may adopt another. Those changes reflect a broader easing of laws that, from 1980 to 2016, restricted most urban families to a single child. A further amendment raises the maximum age for being adopted from 14 to 18.
To be sure, the Civil Code is rooted in a conservative vision of family life. The new rule-book has sparked controversy by imposing a 30-day cooling-off period on many couples seeking to end marriages, to prevent “rash” divorces. The code’s approach to…