A new set of standards for the title of "Harmonious Families" created by the Beijing Women's Federation and the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences was released on February 2, 2012. To obtain the title, families need to be extraordinary in 27 aspects including environmental protection, using public transportation and participating in charity activities. The standards also specify that a "harmonious" family should own more than 300 books, go shopping and travel frequently, have Internet access and go out for family dinners in order to "strengthen the sense of family cohesion."
According to the federation, altogether 200 families will be selected from among the roughly 5.25 million families in Beijing every two years to be granted the title.
The new set of standards, as soon as released, sparked heated debate. Supporters think it's a good thing that the standards were created. Opponents say that the new set of standards is irrelevant to whether the actual lives of families are harmonious. Some netizens think the criteria that require a family to go shopping and travel frequently as well as have access to the Internet deprive low-income families of the chance to be chosen as harmonious families. Those standards are all about money and advocate money-worship in society. Some netizens have even asked whether organizations of the selection consulted the public before approving the standards.
Zhou Zhijun (www.women.org.cn): The criteria that the public pay the most attention to are just the result of a research program done in 2007. They reflect the academic community's conception of a model family at that time. The criteria will be further adjusted to fit the current situation of our society.
The criteria for a harmonious family are classified into two categories: material and spiritual. While attaching importance to material indexes, such as families' living conditions, the new set of standards also emphasize spiritual factors, such as family members' moral level, communication among family members and their education.
Some criteria that netizens pay the most attention to are just referential indexes of the selection and are not compulsory. Different districts of Beijing can have their own special emphasis based on their actual conditions.
The Central Government and the State Council have never paid more attention to the construction of harmonious families and society than now. The set of standards was established to give the right orientation to building family culture. Alongside people's discussion on this topic, more and more Chinese will be attracted to the concept of "harmonious families," which will help increase their awareness of the importance of families.
BB Chen (www.fjsen.com): The new set of standards are more in accordance with the times.
Nowadays, people are living a better life than before and traveling is no longer a privilege for the rich. Besides, people's cultural life is more colorful than before with the support of better infrastructure in big cities. There are gardens in most communities. With 1 yuan ($0.16) bus fee, people can go to many tourist spots. Various activities are organized for parents to strengthen their bond with children. As long as people love their families, whether rich or poor, they can meet the criteria.
The new set of standards is established with a good purpose. People with a harmonious family must be those who worship study and pay attention to the cultivation of a cultural atmosphere in the family. Those criteria have a good function in guiding people. With more and more social problems emerging, it's a good thing to have a set of standards for common people to follow.
Lu Jiehua (www.anhui.cc): In the past, we had a similar selection for "Five-Virtue Families," which was an honorable title for families outstanding in many aspects, such as being willing to help others, respecting the old and taking care of the young, playing an important role in guiding healthy social customs and values. The selection for "Harmonious Families" is the development of the former one.
But, with the fast paced economic development, family values and family composition have become more diversified. They cannot be evaluated by any standards. This kind of selection shouldn't have rigid specifications. Whether a family is harmonious or not can't be selected but should be a dynamic process that needs long-term accumulation. Harmony between people should be based on communications of hearts and shouldn't have objective indexes. Among the 27 items of the new standards, some are about material wealth in families, such as owning more than 300 books, traveling frequently and surfing online frequently. These indexes are way too utilitarian. Even if some families are granted the title, they might not be a good example or a positive guidance.
Liang Jiangtao (news.bandao.cn): For the past five decades, the title of "Five-Virtue Families" was what people used to strive to achieve. Now the title is going to be replaced by "Harmonious Families" with a set of new standards. But does that mean all standards have to be about numbers? Low-income families have to make a flat refusal for the selection because of the high economic threshold.
Access to the Internet, shopping, owning books and traveling are all about money. If a family doesn't have enough money, it can't meet those standards. The new set of standards ignores harmony in spiritual factors. Can we say laborers' families are not harmonious? Are poor families whose members are willing to help others not harmonious? Selection based on standards about money has lost the charitable meaning and is creating disharmony.
This inappropriate set of standards results from the unpractical thoughts of the organizers. They only focus on the middle and upper classes and ignore the lower one. Nobody can say no to low-income families in the selection of "Harmonious Families." We hope organizers can listen carefully to more opinions and suggestions. In that case, more ordinary or poor families can have an opportunity in the selection. Otherwise, the seemingly fancy "Harmonious Families" selection will eventually turn into a show and be meaningless.
Zhu Jiafa (opinion.people.com.cn): The new set of standards is a joke to us. It aims at selecting rich families instead of harmonious ones.
The standards will cause strong repulsion from common people. We should notice why this kind of abnormal and unreasonable standards could even be brought up. These standards have nothing to do with morality. They spread money worship and cause immeasurable damage to society. Organizers think they have taken a step forward along with the times but those standards mean moral decline to us.
Traveling frequently, shopping and having dinner in restaurants are good, but not all families can afford that. Even if some families are in poverty, they can still be defined as harmonious when members of those families have great relationships with each other.