International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family
11 February 2015 (Advance Access)
Abstract: China’s elderly, traditionally revered, are now a forgotten population amid the nation’s rapid economic development. Stories of caregiver neglect, financial exploitation, physical and psychological abuse and neglect are not uncommon. The country’s one-child policy, implemented in the 1970s, has drastically changed its demography and traditional family structure. Responding to the ageing challenge has become an imminent task for China. This article examines critically the adult guardianship laws in China, which were modernised in 2013 as part of the reforms on elder law. First, it seeks to show that Confucian values are rooted in guardianship provisions in China. However, the deficiencies of the existing law to respond to the ageing challenge are also apparent as a consequence. It then goes on to discuss how, against a background of diminishing significance of the Confucian ethic of responsibility in China, recent reforms have attempted to preserve and enrich the Confucian tradition. Ultimately, the challenge facing China is not merely one of devising an adult guardianship system to protect the elderly, but also lies in her attempt to reinvigorate Confucianism with modern relevance.