Battle of the Sexes

Trip Start Aug 02, 2006
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Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

China is a country of only children.

In response to the growing overpopulation problem, the government placed a limit to the number of children a couple could have. It's called the 'One Child Policy'. This policy, while combating one problem, has only birthed (pun intended) a whole new set of problems.

History 101
Traditionally speaking a male child has always been the preferred gender of choice in China. To the Chinese, the peasants especially, a male child made a better laborer and more importantly passed on a family's ancestry. So in the past, if a couple had a daughter they would simply keep having more children until they had a male. However since the enactment of the 'policy', this is no longer an option. If a couple has a daughter, they have a daughter, end of story.

Unfortunately this led to a disturbing increase in cases of child abandonment and 'infanticide', almost all of which were female. Soon ultrasounds were being used in order to tell the gender of the baby before birth. Again, this led to a disturbing trend. An increase in illegal, late term abortions, which ultimately resulted in the banning of using ultrasounds and sonograms to determine a baby's gender.

Of course times have changed, and these acts are seldom practiced today. Female babies are now much more widely accepted, even though in some places they might still be considered a "small happiness" in comparison to a boy child's "big happiness".

Sociology 101
Despite the government's best efforts, the damage was being done. People are creatures of habit and they believed that male children were better than females. This led to an imbalance in the ratio of males and females in China. Not a big deal when their babies, but as all things do, babies tend to grow up. Now China was faced with another problem. Such a large difference in numbers means that many maturing males will have far fewer females in which to socially interact with and ultimately spend their lives. When a generation of people grow up and get married, what happens to all the extra men? Soon cases of women being abducted and kidnapped were on the rise. Understandably there were a lot of lonely unhappy men who could not find a female partner. Of course this wasn't their fault, this is a problem that was thrust upon them and one they're being forced to deal with (not that I condone kidnapping).


Economics 101
What happens when a generation of people with countless brothers and sisters, grows up, has just one child and then retires?
The result is a population chart that begins to take the appearance of an inverted pyramid. The top is a looming weight that thanks to modern medicine is growing larger everyday. This weight is being supported by a much smaller younger generation, who are expected to take care of the elders. It's the oldest Confucian principle of filial piety. Thanks to China's incredible, booming economy, the younger generations have been able to keep the spinning plates from falling, however it may only be a matter of time.

Child Psychology 101

The one child policy has created a country of only children. I'm not one for generalizations or stereotypes, but we can say for the sake of this argument that only children tend to be treated differently than a child with siblings. Being an only child can lead to two main paths. The spoiled ones, or 'little emperors', are given the best of everything. These are the ones that make my classes interesting. They are used to getting their way and don't always seem to understand that the world doesn't revolve around them (even though they live in the middle kingdom). The second type is what I call the 'atlas children', as in they have a tremendous weight on their shoulders. These kids have all of their parent's hopes and expectations resting squarely on them. If they don't do well in school, they won't get into a good college, they won't get a good job and in turn won't be able to properly support their parents. The pressure some of these kids are under to succeed is incredible. Some of my fellow volunteers teach at schools that are in session from 8am until 9pm six days a week.

Closing Remarks
Obviously I've simplified things here and in fact I probably have no idea what I'm talking about. I simply find the dynamics of this whole problem very interesting. Also, there are exceptions to the 'one child policy', it does not apply to China's many minority groups and is often not enforced in most of the country's more rural areas. Also as I have seen in several places (including my very own class 508) twins are a possibility.

On a side note, Beijing has recently approved a 'one dog policy'. I kid you not, in response to recent rabies outbreaks and in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing police are cracking down on stray dogs. According to cnn.com a family now may only own a single dog per household.
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