The New York Times on Wednesday found Chinese President Xi Jinping’s cult of personality and communist-nationalist ideology reaching even unto the sperm banks of Beijing, where a hospital sperm bank ran an online advertisement seeking donors who “have good ideological thoughts, love the socialist motherland, and support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ad specified solid Communist credentials and fervent support for Xi as the top requirements for donors, with an $800 prize awaiting those who could meet both the biological and ideological requirements. Other requirements included a lack of genetic or infectious diseases, acceptable body weight, and a full head of hair. A total of about ten donations over the course of six months were requested from the candidates.
In an encouraging sign of hope for the future of China, social media mocked the advertisement so roundly that the hospital eventually withdrew it. The sarcastic comments questioned whether sperm can transmit ideology, peppered with humorous suggestions such as, “Love for the Party starts with a sperm.”
The Times does not record whether anyone asked if ova can also inherit communism from women. That seems like an unacceptably sexist oversight. The South China Morning Post struck a blow for gender equality by illustrating its story on the sperm bank with a cartoon showing identical sperm of unknown party affiliation swimming toward an ova painted to look like the Chinese Communist flag:
The SCMP went so far as to call the hospital hotline and ask how sperm donors would be tested for ideological purity. “It would be fine as long as you consider yourself suitable,” a doctor replied.
“Nationalism and socialism are mixing in peculiar ways to promote Chinese identity as a bloodline race. The sperm bank announcement shows how the party increasingly dominates Chinese politics, and how nationalism increasingly is defined according to racial purity,” suggested Professor William A. Callahan of the London School of Economics.
The Times floats a few other suggestions for the embarrassing sperm bank ad: hospital administrations might have been clumsily attempting to curry favor with President Xi and the Chinese political elite; China is desperate to overcome the demographic pothole created by its former population control policies and is resorting to jingoistic appeals to lure young men to the sperm bank; the ad might have been written mischievously by subversives at the hospital; or, most amusingly, the creator of the advertisement misunderstood what Xi’s officials mean when they stress the importance of passing the “red gene” along to the younger generation.
The South China Morning Post reports that sperm shortages are causing families to wait over a year for in vitro fertilization.
“China bans the sale of human semen and women looking to undergo fertility treatment must use non-profit sperm banks,” the article notes. “Families using the sperm banks must prove that the husband is infertile or could transmit genetic diseases.”