China implemented a “visit your parents” law on July 1 that requires children to visit their elderly parents (60 and older) “frequently.” The new provision added teeth to an existing law that “says offspring of parents older than 60 should see that their daily, financial and spiritual needs are met,” the Associated Press reported.

The Atlantic’s Bonnie Tsui — a Bay Area resident whose 67-year-old father lives in Guangzhou, China — wrote an essay Wednesday about the demographic concerns that underpin the “visit your parents” provisions that became attached to China’s Law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly on July 1.

“China’s government is facing the massive burden of supporting its growing millions of elderly citizens at the exact same moment as a roaring urban economy is taking away the traditional filial support system,” Tsu said. “So this odd new law is aimed at a very real problem: the rapidly declining Chinese extended family. As policy, it’s controversial — how do you legislate family love and loyalty, and what is it worth in yuan? Will the law backfire, making children resent their parents instead? What does ‘frequently’ mean, and how do you enforce that, anyway? But as social commentary, it’s a wake-up call, and most everyone agrees that a new safety net needs to be put in place.”

Earlier this week, Julie Makinen filed a two-part series for the Los Angeles Times from Beijing about the “visit your parents” law. In the first installment, Makinen reported what Chinese citizens think about the law, and in her follow-up piece she wrote about programs in which seniors help other seniors.

“Already, nearly half of the country's seniors live apart from their children, a phenomenon unheard of a generation ago,” Makinen reported. “Hundreds of millions of young workers from the countryside have migrated to cities for work, leaving their parents behind, and many urban professionals live apart from Mom and Dad. … Across China, the ‘visit your parents’ measure has inspired applause, derision and a bit of soul-searching: Are the nation's traditional values and time-honored family customs slipping away so fast, many ask, that they must be encoded in law?”

The amended law apparently allows children to comply via proxies who are paid to visit the elderly parents. On July 16, the website China Daily reported that since the “visit your parents” provisions went into effect on July 1, “a growing number of elderly care services are being registered on, one of China's largest online shopping sites, offering to visit customers' aged parents, buy their groceries or even just a chat.”