The Chinese government introduced the one child policy in 1979 in order to slow down China’s population growth. Every year China’s population grows by ten million, putting a strain on the country which leads to social, economic, and environmental problems. However, it is only married/ urban couples that have to follow this law. Families that live in the countryside or families who have a daughter as a first child get permission to have another child. I’m going to look at the different attitudes towards the one child policy between generations in China. Looking at numbers alone there has been a significant decline in births and it has proven successful in population control, however this policy is very controversial and has led to many unhappy and suffering families.
- It’s estimated that the single child policy has prevented over 400 million births.
- It has been proven successful in cities and has provided a better education for many children
- It allows parents to spend much more time and energy on their child.
- Families that have supported the family planning policy will receive benefits from the Chinese Government such as health care and education.
- Since the single child policy was introduced there has been many reported stolen children and it was estimated that over 70, 000 children are kidnapped every year.
- Parents find that single children can find it difficult to make friends and they can feel lonely because they have no brother or sisters.
- Government Officials lose their job if they have more than one child.
- Chinese culture traditionally prefer boys which results in a significantly larger amount of men than women in China.
- People believe the policy has led to baby girls being killed, sold, or put up for adoption.
- China’s population is living longer. The first children born under the single-child policy face the prospect of caring for an increasing number of pensioners.
- The country also faces problems of men who can’t find wives due to female foetuses being aborted, resulting in a large gender imbalance.
An article featured on the BBC website by a man called Weiliang Nie looks at whether or not he thinks the single child policy is a fail or success. He grew up in China in the 1960s and 70s before the one child policy had been introduced and families were allowed to have as many children as they liked. Weiliangs’ parents had four children which was common for families living in this time period. However his generation now have to follow the one child policy which has come at a painful cost. He refers to one of his childhood friends’ who has had a second child, a daughter, yet she is registered as someone else’s child. When he does see his daughter she has to call him uncle in order for him to keep his secret and prevent the large fine he would receive. Some families however, don’t mind paying the money to have a second child as they believe it is worth it and benefits the other sibling as they are less lonely.
Another growing problem that has resulted from the single child policy is the gender imbalance. This is a very serious issue in China as more than 24 million men could find themselves without spouses as there are just not enough women. One of the main reasons that has lead to this problem is the large numbers of women who have abortions if they are pregnant with a female baby. As I mentioned earlier in the disadvantages, China’s traditional culture favours boys over girls and many families still carry this tradition. The latest figures show that for every 100 girls born in China, 119 boys are born. This gender ratio will not only lead to men having no spouses but also inter-generational marriages, where the wife is older than the husband.
Last summer I worked with a girl called Chenchen, aged 23, who was an only child due to the one child policy and was lucky enough to send her some questions to answer.
1) Do you think the one child policy was a good idea?
Answer: I’m not sure. It was a good idea in that it reduced population growth however I know lots of friends and families who would have liked to have more children.
2) Would you have liked to have had a brother or sister?
Answer: Yes I would have, but I was never lonely. I had lots of friends at school who also had no siblings, so we had a lot in common. But it would have been nicer at home to have another sibling.
3) You now live in Scotland. Has this changed the way you feel about the policy?
Answer: Well I work with people who have lots of brothers and sisters and it does seem very different. They talk about how they argue and fight which I obviously never had.
4) When you start your family, how many children would you like?
Answer: I wouldn’t want a big family. It depends if I stay in Scotland or move back to China. But ideally I think I would like 2.
5) Did your parents have a lot of brothers and sisters? And did they want more than one child?
Answer: Yes they both grew up in large families. Yes, especially my mother, as she grew up with 2 sisters and 1 brother, whom she is very close with. However they couldn’t afford to have another child.
Overall it seems like there are different opinions on the single child policy depending on the generations. My friend from work seemed quite comfortable being a single child but she does mention how her parents feel completely different. I suppose if they were brought up in big families it must have been really strange to then only be allowed one child. This is a very controversial topic but it’s very interesting to read about as it seems so different to how things are in Britain.
Joanne White – Group 6
Assignment 4 – Generations
For this assignment I decided to look a bit further into Factory working conditions in China and the effects they have on workers leaving their families behind. Focusing more to the point on why they do it. It seems to be the daughter/son’s responsibility to provide for the family when in poverty, even though the parents do not like to see their children leave. In some cases, it is merely a way of survival.
China believes strongly in respecting your elders, as it is known that the oldest person in the family should receive the most respect and honor, as they pass their wisdom onto the younger generation. The Chinese also highly believe that their ancestors are always looking down on them and their actions, perhaps making them more respectful in a way. Caring for one’s family is one of the most important things in a Chinese person’s life. Retirement homes are highly uncommon and placing your parents into one see’s you being labeled as very uncaring and a bad son/daughter. Abandoning your family is one of the most dishonorable things you could do. Even with such degenerative illnesses e.g. Dementia, most people would rather hire a carer than leave a family member alone. Taking care of an ill parent is all the children’s responsibility and those who do not contribute are almost disowned from the family all together.
“According to culture and tradition, children have responsibility for the older members in the family. The word care here means that you as a child have to personally take care of your parents and not let the nurse in the nursing home take care of them. So, it is very common to see a grown adult living with his/her family.”
Parents were cared for by all of their numerous offspring who relied on one another to work as part of a team but now China’s “one-child” policy is in order, social attitudes of China are changing.
“A family must have a son. Min’s mother had four girls before finally giving birth to a boy; in those early years of the government policy limiting families to one child, enforcement was lax in much of the countryside. But five children would bring heavy financial burdens as the economy opened up in the 1980s and the cost of living rose. As the second- oldest child, Min would bear many of those burdens”.
Factory Girls – Leslie T. Chang
Therefore children of a family in poverty feel it is their responsibility to migrate to the city to work endless hours at a mass producing factory, lifting both themselves and their family normally still back in a rural area out of poverty. You hear a lot of horror stories from workers of these factories but the colleagues are still willing to put themselves through it to make their family proud.
I watched two short documentaries called “Santa’s Workshop” and “A dollar a day: Made in China”, they focused on working conditions in a mass production toy factories and electronic factories in China
. One Swedish toy factory reports that 95% of their toys are manufactured in Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong was part of the British economy before it was reunited with China in 1997 – “enjoying more freedom and democracy than the rest of China”. The reported asked the manager of the toy store what buyers are looking for with their products and he replied with “buyers are interested in pricing”. It seems that all the people involved in running these large businesses are only interested in the profits being made. The film shows a small clip of inside the factory where workers are dealing with hot plastic for nearly 12 hours a day. He mentions how hot the factory is and that it is difficult to breathe.
The whole factory economy seem very secretive in what actually goes on, limiting camera crew to only certain areas and not allowing them to speak to any workers. Looking around the factory they notices signs warning workers that film producers would be in that day. What are they hiding?
The subject of gender is brought up quite often in these programmes and it seems that it is mainly females working under these conditions. It is explained by some workers that sons normally stay at home while the daughters migrate to the city to provide earnings for the family. One boss of the toy company says that 90% of workers are female and this is “because they are easy to manage”. On “A dollar a day” one factory boss mentions how girls are more precise and easier to manage than boys. The workers migrate from rural areas usually because “they have no choice but to come here to get better wages”. Nobody working in the factory is local residents.
Employees in this factory get paid for how fast they work. Those who work the slowest earn about 300 Yuan a month, when the average makes 500 Yuan. They are under a lot of control and follow ruins obediently; any slacking can result in a fine or dismissal. Working with plastic often results in burns or cuts, as a lack of safety equipment is seen. Any major injury caused will not even see compensation being offered.
Although it is very difficult for workers to leave their family behind, living conditions are normally better at the factory (but not much).
“My parents sent me here because they didn’t have the money to buy a new house. I really hated my parents when I had to leave home”
“The workers live in quarter, normally 12 to 20 a room”. And the only storage for personal items is on their beds.
This young girl on a dollar a day had the intelligence to go to University but her family did not have the money for it. There is a clip where she gets the opportunity to phone her family and arrange a trip home, it is an upsetting scene:
“I miss you so much. I feel so homesick. I want to go home…”
The girl hasn’t even seen her brother in almost four year and it is an emotional time for all when the trip finally goes ahead. She cannot see herself at the factory forever, as she would like to eventually open her own small shop restaurant.
It is crazy what some of the young girls actually do and put themselves through just to help their family out. It really makes you wonder if the young society in Britain would do that for their family today.
“Emigration is the act of leaving one’s native country or region to settle in another.”
In the past few decades, China has witnessed the largest human migration in history. Every year millions of workers leave their homes in rural villages in search of urban employment in the big cities. China’s “floating population” leave behind their friends and family with the hope of a better life, for both themselves and the family back home whom they can send money back to.
The migrants often find that their new life in the city is not what they hoped for. The hours are long, the pay poor and the jobs boring. They persevere because they often have people back home relying on them and because there would be great shame in returning home a failure.
On the opposite end of the scale though there is a growing trend in emigration amongst the wealthiest of Chinese. The Huran Research Institute has published statistics in 2011 revealing that 14% of China’s wealthy have emigrated out of the country or are applying to do so, and a further 46% are considering it. These “wealthy” are defined by having more than 10 million Yuan (nearly £1 million). Many go to Hong Kong, where life is easier both politically and financially but the immigrants don’t have to sever all ties with China. Others generally leave for the USA, Canada, Singapore and Australia. These wealthy mainlanders feel their families and children would have better lives overseas, and cite reasons such as higher quality education, convenience, to avoid political issues, cleanliness and safety.
Many of these expatriates will return to China in their retirement, but it’s a different story for their children, who know much less about China and will often choose to remain in the west. This younger generation will have been raised in a different culture from their parents, and hence will have different values and outlooks on life.
I talked to a friend of mine who is a student at Dundee University, he is of Chinese descent but was born here in Scotland. I asked him about the history of emigration in his family and got to understand the motivation behind the migrations of three different generations, which were all for very different reasons and essentially reflect the era that each generation came from.
For his grandmother, moving from Hong Kong from China was a matter of safety. She fled there with her family to escape the invasion of the Japanese in China. This eight year conflict claimed the lives of 20 million Chinese according to official statistics. I used Google to try and source a statistic about how many Chinese fled China during this time and couldn’t find anything along those lines, which suggests that not very many did. Perhaps my friend’s family was among the very rare and fortunate.
The prospect of a better quality education took his father to Scotland. Although he was born and raised in Malaysia, his family is Chinese. He came here to study engineering at Edinburgh University, but then never ended up returning to Malaysia upon graduating. This was mainly because he had started to make a life here, he had a job and had met his future wife, and would go on to do a PhD. I enquired about how his family felt about this permanent emigration, my friend wasn’t too sure, but he was under the impression that it was seen as a positive thing.
As an afterthought I asked, “Would you ever go to live in China?”
“No, never” he said firmly and confidently. This answer didn’t come as a surprise, but I asked for an explanation anyway. He considered the question briefly before replying.
“Mainly because of the government I guess. It’s a closed system and they are closed minded. Ironically I realize it seems that I am closed minded for saying that, but it’s true, at least for the most part. There’s much less freedom there.”
In this century in the United Kingdom, it’s almost impossible for my generation to imagine a life where we don’t have complete freedom of speech, where we don’t have the right to democracy, and where we can’t just type a few words into a search engine to find any information we could ever want to know. To suddenly have to live under a Chinese style regime would be a massive culture shock, and we’d feel it was for the worse.
There are those currently living in China who fantasize of leaving but just don’t have the money of means to do so, the generation who feel they are still young enough to have their own American Dream. In Paul Midler’s book “Poorly Made in China” he meets a factory manager who tells Midler that he is from Los Angeles in the USA, after much confusion it is finally understood that he has never actually lived there but once visited the city on holiday and now wishes it was his home. Los Angeles was his aspiration, so he called it his home.
The reason I used the word emigration apposed to immigration for this post is because I wanted to focus on the attitudes and feelings the Chinese have about people leaving home, rather than the attitudes to the millions of immigrants who arrive into China’s cities. Emigration is the act of leaving ones home for another country or region. Immigration is the act of arriving in that country or region.
Differences in generations-Money and possessions
Over the last one hundred years there and been change on a mass scale in China. How has it effected the different generations of a family? Have priorities changed? Has the value of money changed and has the possessions they valued changed?
I conducted an interview to try and answer some of these questions. The girl I interviewed was in her twenties; her parents fifty plus and her grandparents in there eighties.
I firstly asked about the value of money across the generations and how it differed. She said that the stability of China has changed over the years and this has effected how the people value their money. When talking about her Grandparents she said they came from a different world to her. China was very poor and they valued everything. They would save every penny and not purchase anything. She said her parent’s generation, now being in there 40s and 50s, purchases began to change as China was growing they started to be able to enjoy life more. They spent some money on digital products but tended to invest in stocks and property and gold. Whereas her generation like to purchase and the most expensive objects she has owned have been ‘ cell phones, laptops and digital cameras.’
She said because China has always been quite unstable due to it growth the currency is also quite unstable. The way of using money in China has changed. She said in China amongst the older generations credit cards are un-popular. She says the older generations won’t use credit cards because they are unstable and they don’t like the idea of using ‘future money’ and hate the idea of being in debt. She says this is changing now and most young people own a credit card because they love to purchase. There are still differences in her grandparents and parents generation. She said her Grandparents put all their money in the bank and love the feeling of seeing their money grow. She said for them it its kind of like OCD the happiness they seem to get from watching their money grow. Compare this to her parent’s generation who like to feel stable so invest the money in different things and spread it around. She also mentioned that to feel secure most people in their fifties own more than one property around the country maybe three or four.
There is a word in Chinese ‘Liang Ru wei chu’ that illustrates her parents and grandparents view on money it means, roughly, purchase depends on income. Meaning previous generations wouldn’t spend money they didn’t have. This has changed for her generation who feel more secure and stable. However there are still differences in her generation between urban and rural. She says that in the rural areas they have the same kind of mind-set as her grandparents and save every penny. I think this would be again to do with feeling unstable as there is a big divide between the rich and poor in China and people can still just be told to leave there homes.
The interview naturally took a side-track from my topic of money and possessions and moved into marriage and opportunity. She told me through the generations success has different properties. For the older generation who were subject to wars a poor economy for them to be successful was just to stay alive and be secure so generally they’d be married by twenty have kids and follow those steps. Whereas for her parents generation, during Chinas growth, they started to come away from the traditional steps and wanted to find a chance and grab it. It was still frowned upon for that generation not to be married by twenty five and traditions still came through. She said for her she might be expected to be married by about thirty but it wasn’t seen as that important it was more important for her generation to be seen as an individual character following her own path. They strive to be unique maybe this is by studying higher education or studying abroad. The idea of standing out from the crowd has become ever more important.
This interview uncovered a lot of interesting results and because it has changed so quickly the differences between the generations is very clear. However I don’t think it’s that different from this country and differences in generations and traditions tend to fade through the generations the only difference with China is that it has happened over a shorter period of time due to its rapid growth.Alot of globalisation seems to be occuring in China and I think this has a big influence on the differences between generations.
The interview also highlighted the divide between China, between the rich and the poor, at the moment. This is something that seems to constantly appear in research into China that half the country have become rich quick whereas the other half are still in the same position and very poor.