February 8, 2023
2023 has begun with significant events, including the legalization of cross-border same-sex marriage in Taiwan, China's first population decline, and changes in political leadership in Vietnam. Eased travel restrictions in China are also notable.


10th LGBT Pride in Taipei, Taiwan, 2012

Marriage equality blooms in Taiwan

The LGBTQ+ community has long been fighting for their right to marry and form a family. Since the Netherlands took their step ahead and became the first country in the world to legalise the same-sex marriage practice in 2000, now marriage between same-sex couples is legal in 32 nations. This includes Taiwan, which is the first and only country from the East Asia region to do so.

In May 2019, same-sex marriage legislation was approved by lawmakers in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. The journey, however, had not been easy. Without the government's encouragement, it seemed improbable that Taiwan would legalize non-heterosexual couples to marry. 

Marriages between Taiwanese and foreigners were formerly restricted to citizens of nations where the bill was as well approved. This year on January 20, Taiwanese authorities notified the latest policy change. They agreed to enable transnational same-sex couples, which marks a huge advance towards marriage equality. Taiwanese and their foreign partners can now register their unions. The only limitation, however, will stay in force if one of the couples is from Mainland China.

Marriage is not only the act of celebrating in ceremonies and signifying their life-long social commitment. It also refers to the permissions on each other’s legal acts, inheritance rights, medical rights, and adoption as civil partners. Citizens in other countries in East and Southeast Asia, like Thailand, the Philippines and Japan, are also claiming and fighting for their rights in marriage with no discrimination, just like heterosexual couples. Such a movement requires much support and attention from the citizen and a supportive attitude from the government in order to achieve, like Taiwan.


First fall in China’s population since 1961

For the first time in six decades, the number of deaths surpassed births, resulting in a demographic fall in China. According to the Chinese government, in 2022, 9.56 million were born, in contrast to 10.41 million who died. The last time deaths outnumbered births was during the Great Leap Forward era, when Mao Zedong’s failed economic strategies caused a major famine in the world’s most populous country. 

This fall in the Chinese population has many implications, according to experts. The image of China being “young, vibrant” will soon be replaced with an “old and shrinking population.” Labour shortages will be inevitable, putting more pressure on tax revenues and the existing pension system. 

Cai Fang, the vice-chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, stated that the population had already reached its peak in 2022, much earlier than expected. The government’s made several efforts to encourage childbirth, including financial aid, subsidies and tax cuts; however, after decades of the “one-child” policy and the rising cost of the modern lifestyle, the decreasing birth rate is irreversible. China has already hit a point in economic growth where fertility rates fall as incomes rise and education levels increase. 

With China’s population shrinking rapidly, experts are debating whether India has taken the spot as the most populous nation in the world, although India’s population data collection method still remains uncertain. 


Prime minister of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc
Source: The White House from Washington, DC / Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

Vietnamese president, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, forced to resign

Vietnam is under a single-party communist rule. Like in other communist countries, it means that the national politics happen both inside the party and inside the government. This January, the president of the country, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has been ousted by the communist party for corruption reasons. Officially the latter resigned because he took the “political responsibility as a leader for violations and mistakes committed by other officials” (The Time) during the pandemic.  Phuc had been in power for almost 2 years since April 2021. Former Vice president Vo Thi Anh Xuan is, therefore, the new president of Vietnam. She will exercise this function until the National Assembly votes in a new leader.

Vietnam is believed to have “no paramount ruler and is officially led by four “pillars”: the party’s secretary, the president, prime minister and speaker of the house” as says CNN. Therefore, having the president to resign for corruption tells us two things. On the one hand, corruption is present even in the highest spheres of Vietnamese politics. But on the other hand, it also means that the party is determined to enforce its anti-corruption drive.

Moreover, “Vietnam is country with single party rule and any political changes are very carefully managed to give the impression of political stability and continuity. So analysts say this is highly unusual”, reported Al Jazeera. This is the reason why this event has brought some debates, especially regarding the leader of the party, Nguyen Phu Trong, who is gaining power and could be considered the highest-ranked figure in the country. Some say that this move was a way for him to consolidate his position.


FILE PHOTO: Travellers walk with their luggage at Beijing Capital International Airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Beijing, China December 27, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo/File Photo

China easeS up its travel restrictions

Right before the Lunar New Year period, China eased up travel restrictions. China allowed its citizens to travel abroad to celebrate the holiday. This led to a sharp increase in tourism in countries where tourism is the main source of income.

As of the 8th of January, inbound travellers are now permitted to enter the country in an effort to relax travel restrictions in and outside China. International tourists stepping into China are now required to spend 5 days in hotel quarantine and 3 days of home isolation. Furthermore, restrictions on airlines surrounding the number of international flights and passengers will be lifted.

The news has received mixed reactions from neighbouring countries and some established travel restrictions specifically for people coming from china. Many countries expressed reservations regarding the viability of China’s data regarding Covid19 surges in the country. 

Japan issued flight restrictions for planes coming from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau due to limited quarantine capacity in the country. South Korea implemented restrictions which they later extended on short-term visas issued for Chinese travellers.

The Chinese government issued retaliations to Japan and South Korea for travel restrictions they consider discriminatory and unfair towards Chinese tourists. China suspended the issue of visas for both countries. It later came back on its decision regarding Japan but not South Korea.

On the contrary, Thailand, the top destination for Chinese tourists in 2019, welcomed the news with open arms. The government seemed pleased as it would create a boom for the tourism sector. Due to the covid crisis, many touristic agencies and entertainment agencies were in a critical situation and saw the flux of incoming Chinese tourists as a light in the dark.

Article by the editorial staff of the lunar times

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