One Child Policy in China- Past, Present and Future

“Even if China’s population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production. Of all things in the world, people are the most precious.”

Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, made this statement in 1949 soon after the People’s Republic of China was formed. During this time, China experienced a massive increase in population, which at the time was considered a positive direction for China to go in. The mentality of people during this time was that population growth meant economic growth. After centuries of generations suffering from political unrest and epidemics, high population rates were not considered damaging to the Chinese people. This generation wanted to create new lives in a positive time in Chinese history.

It wasn’t until 1955 that the government introduced a birth control campaign that supported abortion in an effort to control the population growth. After a series of natural disasters and poor government planning a reported 20-30 million people in China starved to death between 1958 and 1961. The need to regulate the population started to become a serious issue.

It was in 1978 that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping established the one child policy that limited the number of children people could have to only one. If a family did not comply with this law and produced a second child, there would be substantial fines. At a 2007 press conferences with Chinese officials, Zhang Weiqing was eager to exemplify the success of the one child policy, “Because China has worked hard over the last 30 years, we have 400 million fewer people.” This policy has created an enormous debate on whether it is hindering the basic human rights of Chinese citizens. Zhang Hui, mother of one little girl, believes that one child is enough and she would want one no matter the government regulations and fines. “I’m too busy at work to have any more,” stated Beijing native Zhao Hui. She also went on to say she is not alone in thinking this way. Many of her friends feel the same. A 2008 Pew Research poll three-in-four Chinese people (76%) approve of the policy. Professor Wang Feng, of the University of California, Irvine, confessed that because of the one child policy the Chinese citizen’s attitudes have evolved since the policy was instated in 1978.  “A lot of people simply don’t want that many children. People have accepted the policy,” said Wang. Over the years, the Chinese people have adapted to the childbearing regulations. For past generations, when it was typical to have many children in family, this policy would have seemed unrealistic.

For many in China there has been an acceptance of the one child policy but in some cases people are against it. Mother of two, Liu Shuling, escaped the traumas of a forced abortion when she decided to pay fines, amounting to four times her annual income, in order to have a second child. Liu Shuling and her husband were pleased to have a second son even if it was at the risk of loosing all financial stability. Liu Shuling’s husband admitted in an interview that a son was really what they wanted in order to help them when they reached an older age. Liu Shuling added, “To have a girl doesn’t work.”

Liu Shuling

Because of the one child policy, sex discrimination has become a huge repercussion. Most people prefer sons to daughters and will go to drastic lengths to have their one and only child be a boy. Abortion, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide have become consequence of the one child policy. Everyday in China, 20,000 babies are born, but for every 100 girls there are 120 boys. The future generation of China will have to deal with the vast number of single men unable to find brides. There is also a fear that with such a high number of single men in China’s future society, there will a drastic increase in crime and violence. Jo Ming, a school principal with a belief that there needs to be a cultural balance between men and women, states in reference to the one child policy, “Once born, we are all equal, and we are all human beings. We need to respect each other. I think, even though some older people don’t agree, it should be eliminated.” The mentality that females are not as preferable as males is not a new attitude in China but only one that has worsened with the one child policy.

The one child policy was created to regulate the population and avoid poverty; however, there are still 600 million people living in China who earn less then $2 a day. Multiple generations will feel the effects of the policy. Because of the one child regulations, generational dynamics within a family have altered. In past generations, the parents were able to rely on their children in old age. For the present and future, a single child must take care of his or her parents and four grandparents. The one child policy has effected generations differently but all people in China are interconnected. A solution made during one generation seems to inevitably make way for an entirely new problem for the next generation. The one child policy was meant be a temporary solution and only last a generation. In 2010, after 30 years of the policy being enacted, the government shows no sign of stopping the regulations.

Homosexuality in China : 余桃断袖

Initially, I’d very much assumed that in China, like many western countries, homosexuality was frowned upon, or seen as sinful and evil, at least until recent years. However much to my surprise, especially so in the earlier generations, homosexuality was seen as a very normal, and regular way of life in China. Homosexuality wasn’t frowned upon in China until the 19th and 20th century through the spread of westernisation and Christian and Islamic beliefs. In time it was banned in the People’s Republic of China, and only 15 years ago in 1997 was the ban lifted and legalised once more.

Homosexuality in China has been documented since ancient times. There have been many documented cases of high authorities and people such as emperor’s having one or more male sex partners, while also maintaining heterosexual relationships. Emperor Ai of the Han Dynasty was one such emperor who was very devoted to his male companion, stated that he “did not care for women”, he even tried to pass on the throne to his lover. Another was General Liang Ji, again of the Han Dynasty, who was happily married, but also owned a slave who was publicly acknowledged as a concubine.

Homosexuality was the norm back in these days, so cases weren’t taken much note of unless there were odd circumstances surrounding them – Emperor Ai was noted as he once cut off his sleeve that his lover was sleeping on as not to wake him, which was then imitated by many people in court leading to the expression “breaking the sleeve”, and expression for homosexuality, which was paired with an early story of an emperor sharing a peach with his lover “the leftover peach” to create “yútáo duànxiù” (余桃断袖), a term for refering to homsexuality in general. General Liang Ji’s case was noted because he was extremely devoted to his wife, and shared his slave with her in a 3-way sexual relationship, rather than having them both only aim to please him. Male prostitutes was also not unheard of, younger or poorer men would provide sexual services to a man in a higher power in return for a political advancement.

Marriage between males also came about in the province of Fujian. The older male would play the masculine role as an “adoptive older brother”, pay a price to the family of the younger man, virgins reportedly fetching higher prices, the younger man would be the “adoptive younger brother”. They would carry out the ceremony much like a regular wedding. The younger male would move in the older’s home and would become completely dependant on him. They would even possibly go on to raise adopted children. Marriages like these would last up to 20 years before they were both expected to marry women and carry on their family name.

There is not much documentation of relations between women in Chinese history, with most of the reason being that the role of women is not given much positive emphasis, and that it can only be assumed to have been a rare occurrence.

China would keep these very open views, and deem homosexuality the norm for years to come, until the west began advancing into their territory. It is highly argued that the influence of the west is the reason that China took on the view of the majority of the rest of the world – that homosexuality was unnatural and wrong.

From the 19th and 20th Century onward, homosexuality was banned up until 1997, however it was only removed from the Ministry of Health’s list of mental illnesses in 2001. Not much was known about the Communist Chinese governments official policies in regards to homosexuality prior to the 1980’s, however many were imprisoned and executed – whether for oppression or sexual identity is unknown but Mao was believed to have supported castration of “sexual deviants”. Even in the 1980’s the Chinese government treated homosexuality as a disease and would subject people to things like electric shock therapy  to change their orientation.

Today, homosexuality in both males and females is becoming much less taboo, or shunned as it was during the 19th and 20th century. It is increasingly becoming more widely accepted among Chinese people, though there are still some limiting factors such as gay movies being banned from being shown on TV or at the cinema. In Chinese countryside it’s still as heavily frowned upon as it was before, what with lack of internet, city lifestyle and breaking out from the traditional norms, homosexuality is, when spoken of, usually considered as a disease.

While widely more tolerated, many individuals are not inclined to “come out” to family or friends – to not marry and have a child is seen as largely disrespectful to their parents. Some also feel that revealing themselves will have an impact on their career. People who have come out to parents, and even those who have not but the parents know, often face the “don’t ask; don’t tell” attitude; if it’s not talked about it won’t/hasn’t happened, they will often bring up marriage and children even if they know their child is gay, which can lead to many cutting of a huge chunk of their life off from their family. Older generations maintain the heterosexual lifestyle and carrying on the family name and heritage, but newer generations are beginning to branch out and embrace themselves rather than cling on to age old ways.

More recently there has been a trend growing in China of gays marrying lesbians to lead the “heterosexual lifestyle” that their parents desire, but while also leading their own lives, rather than past generations of homosexuals who would simply marry and have children, and stay hidden about their sexuality forever. They believe in China that this is a “temporary fix” to deal with social and family pressures, because for some the cost is too high for them to come out.

Homosexuality, until the 19th century really didn’t seem to be any sort of issue in China at all, in all generations past. It’s only since the coming of the west and their religious beliefs, and possibly Mao, has China taken on the same  questionable stance as (most of) the rest of the world. Though with the silenced attitude of many older generations, violence against gays and lesbians isn’t as prominent as it is in countries like the USA. With the way things are now in China, especially so with the current younger generation, it can only be a matter of time before homosexuality is once again, nothing more than normality, and with equality for everyone.

From East to West

When I look around at the contents of my room, I’ve come to realize that I’ve never wondered where they were made.  I have not been conscious of the fact that most of what I own comes from a different country other then the one I’m residing in. My laptop, my phone, the sweater in my closet, all say they were made in the East. While living in Dundee, the two stores I frequent most are H&M, a Swedish owned company and Primark, a British company. I considered the fact that even though these companies are owned by Western brands it is likely that their products are manufactured in the East. Indeed, H&M and Primark’s goods are produced in Asia.

Primark Ad
H&M Ad

I asked other Dundee residents if they were aware of where most of what they own comes from. Some were very aware of where their products came from while others were hesitant in answering. Becca Clow was well aware that most of what she owns is exported from Asia. She stated how she has always had an interest in technology and a curiosity regarding where it originated. Catherine Sutherland said that she simply looks at the labels on her clothing; she generally likes to know where the things she owns come from.  However, like me, Katelyn Burns had never really put much thought in to the labels on her clothing and electronics. She’d had basic knowledge that the East played a role in product distribution. She went on to say, “I know many labels do say ‘Made in China’ but I thought a high-end American product such as Apple would be manufactured in the States. I assumed if I was buying these products in America they should be made in America. I had no idea so much is made in the East.” The “Made in China” label has become the most identifiable brands in the world today. “Made in Taiwan” and “Made in Indonesia” are close seconds. These labels signify a booming manufacturing industry in Asia where the exportation of goods has become their primary form of profit.

Products made in China have the reputation of being poor in quality. An explanation for the affordability of brands such as H&M and Primark is due to the fact that these products are produced at little cost at a rapid pace. When goods are produced at lows costs, low quality in what i is to be expected. Consumers can tell when a product is made strictly for profit with no consideration for those who will be buying the merchandise. Becca Clow went on to say, “things made in Scotland are of good quality because they are made for those who live in Scotland. There is no reason to expend money on products that are not for you. “ When products are made domestically with domestic materials the quality increases but so does the price. People are willing to sacrifice quality for lower prices yet we still blame China for producing goods not up to par.

Though China has this bad reputation, I do not think that the products coming out of China are exclusively poor in quality. I believe there is bad as well as good.  When we buy cheaply, we loose the right to comment on the poor quality. I think if we were willing to pay more, China could offer us improved merchandise. I think the companies employing these factories in China are to blame. They play a major role in the output of poor quality goods. There needs to be a level of responsibility on the part of the Western companies utilizing the Chinese factories.

We all seem to be generally aware of the fact that what we own does not originate where we have bought it. Most of what we own has been fabricated in Asia. Even though we claim to be aware, we ignore these facts because we live in a society in which affordability outweighs lack of quality.  Being aware doesn’t always mean being accountable for what we purchase.

Factories in China, acceptable working conditions?

When you look at a piece of clothing, an electronic device or even a child’s toy, where is it most likely to have come from? China. In fact you would probably guess China without even looking. Everyone I asked guessed that their things like laptops, mp3 players and so forth were from China, or “somewhere in Asia”. When I was younger I used to imagine China was just a country where everything was made, that it was just factory after factory, and nothing else – of course I know now that this is certainly not the case. Still, a large majority of products are made in China, but what do we know about these factory’s?

There has been talk of China’s factory’s in the news as of late, in particular the factory Foxconn, which is the manufacturer for the likes of Apple’s iPad’s & iPod’s, Microsofts Xbox, and Amazon’s Kindle among other companies and products. The recent controversial topics surrounding Foxconn are with Apple following a record high in earnings in 2011, which were up over 100% compared to their previous years earnings, causing people to start asking questions. On one particular article I read about the massive success of Apple in 2011, the first comment was “Thank god for cheap Chinese labor”.

In China there are currently 13 Foxconn factories in 9 different cities – the most in any other country in the world. The largest is situated in Longhua, Shenzhen, with 430,000  workers, it is often refered to as “Foxconn city” or “iPod City”, and with that amount of people and things like worker dormitories, a grocery store, swimming pool, it’s own tv network, a downtown area with restaurants, bookstores, a hospital and bank, it certainly is like a city! Some of the workers, as guessed by the dormitories, live within the factory, while others live in nearby towns and villages. Without knowing what goes on behind the scenes it seems not too shabby, but is that really the case?
It was recently revealed after some investigation following such record high earnings from Apple about the conditions at Foxconn, the long hours the hundreds of thousands of staff worked (6 or 7 days a week for up to 14 hours a day), and the suicides of 17 of their workers (which prompted Foxconn to put up a barrier on the top of their buildings, and for workers to sign a form promising not to commit suicide). Apple promptly raised the workers average wage by 25% following the sudden epidemic of suicides. Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said they are taking their working conditions very seriously for their workers.

American monologist Mike Daisey, who is an Apple enthusiast recently spoke about his trip to Foxconn after he saw a forum thread about someone who had photo’s on their newly bought iPhone of the inside of a Chinese factory. For me this was the first thing I had ever really heard or taken particular notice in, and it shocked me. He speaks with a joke thrown in here and there, but he tells the listener about how he meets workers from the factory, one girl who cleans the screens of iPhones all day long, every week, and she is as young as 13. This kind of work is not acceptable in the likes of the UK or America, so why is it in China? Another worker he meets is an older man (at another factory, not Foxconn), his hand is all twisted up and his hands are very leathery, and the man tells him how he’s moved to this factory because the hours and pay are better (70 hours a week), and the people are nicer. He also meets other people from Foxconn whose joints have disintegrated from the total wear and tear from doing the same repeated movements every single day for hours on end, and when they get to this stage, they are thrown off their line, and moved to another or fired. Really, this is horrific, without even doing research I know in the west, if this sort of thins happened, it would be headline news and not acceptable at all.

You can listen to his experience here

Following onto this, it’s very different to factory work you would find in the west. There aren’t factories like this in the west, why is that? Apple commented that they use Chinese labour because they work better than American labour. You’ll find people in the west also won’t apply (or certainly not enough) for the types of jobs like factory labour, they think they are above it, and they certainly wouldn’t apply for the amount of pay it gives, even in the current recession.

Is Foxconn and other factories like it so bad though? Well, yes, given some of the current conditions it’s certainly not great, so why do millions Chinese people apply to work at these factories? Well the simple and obvious answer is that it’s easy to get a job, and so an easy way to earn, albeit not a lot of money. But they have helped raise the economy in China, it’s helped move people from the absolute lowest form of poverty, to something not that much better, but to something better at least. Women in particular were given sudden job opportunities that they never had.

I think it’s a hard thing to comment on, of course these kind of factories aren’t good, not in their current state, but they are getting better, and I think if they keep continuing to improve, giving better conditions to it’s workers, not such intense hours, a higher pay and so on, they could really be not such an issue, in fact they could be a great(er) asset than they currently are to China.

History of Chinese Animation

Ever since the boom in animation following the huge success of Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, animation from all over the world has enjoyed commercial success, most notably the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and France. China is sadly not a country that has known much commercial success with it’s animation, and so not many people know many, if any Chinese animations at all.

The first well recognised animation in China was the 10 minute short “Uproar in the Studio” created by the four Wan brothers; Wan Chaochen, Wan Dihuan, Wan Guchan and Wan Laiming in 1926. Sadly the film has been since lost, but it helped the Wan brothers become recognised as pioneers in the animation industry in China. In 1935 they created their first animated film with sound “The Camel’s Dance”, again seems to have been also lost to history.

In 1941 the Wan brothers released China’s first animated feature film “Princess Iron Fan”. After seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, they sought to create an animated feature film of the same quality. The film was adapted from a popular Chinese folk tale “Journey to the West”. It took them 3 years, 237 artists and 350,000 yuan (roughly £35,133). A high amount of rotoscoping was done to save on costs, often the eyes of the live action actors were left visible on the faces of the characters. “Princess Iron fan” was the first Animated feature to be made in Asia, in 1942 it reached the shores of Japan and went onto inspire Tezuka Osamu, a highly influential Japanese comic artist.

You can watch the full film on YouTube!

While subtle, Chinese animation, particularly “Princess Iron Fan”, had a highly important role in the boom of animation in another region of the world – Osamu Tezuka is highly regarded as the “Walt Disney of Japan”, and of course, Japan is a huge part of animation, the largest in Asia by far. Perhaps without the influence of Chinese animated film Princess Iron Fan, Japan wouldn’t be as successful and as influential in the animation industry as it is today.

In the late 1940’s Chinese Animation was heavy in political content, with films such as Emperor’s Dream which was animated with puppets, trying to expose the Kuomintang Chinese nationalist party. From the 1950’s onwards, the predecessor of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio was formed, all of the big name artist came together within this studio, including the Wan Brothers. In 1956 the Wan brothers created their first coloured animated film “Why is the Crow Black-Coated”, which also was the first animated Chinese film to be recognised internationally, at the 1956 Venice Film Festival.

The very early 1960’s gave way to the Wan Brothers most recognised film “Havoc in Heaven” or “Uproar in Heaven”. Planning for the film originally began in 1941, but due to the War, it was delayed over 10 years. They began production in 1954 and by 1964 the whole film was completed. Based on the story “Journey to the West”, it is about a Monkey King who rebels again the Emperor of heaven. As previously mentioned, it was a highly recognised film, and one of the most influential films of all time to come out of Asia. The film runs for almost 2 hours long,  pushing the limits of the current animation technology, and had incredibly vivid colours at the time on screen.

1966 saw the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao, and the animation industry was essentially put to a halt during this time. Many animators were not allowed to draw during this time, and were forced to do labor work. This continued until the Cultural Revolution was over in 1976. The animators left were heavily influenced by Mao’s campaign, for example one animation made “Little 8th Route Army” which was the story of a boy taking revenge against the Japanese Army.

The Cultural Revolution had done an extensive amount of damage to the Chinese Animation industry, the majority of animation shown in Hong Kong was from the United States, mostly being a Disney animation. Japan had also risen as the dominant country providing animation from Asia, creating extremely popular mascots and animated shows. China had a very hard time coming back and competing again in the animation market. The 1980’s saw them begin to pick back up, but then again by the 1990’s they were once again pushed back by the ever growing Japanese Animation industry with the likes of Pokemon which was a hugely massive success all over the world, earning $15 billion in sales.
Currently, with the massive rise of the internet, many independent animators are embracing things such as flash animation, while not commercially successful as feature films, it is a step in the right direction. In 2005 they also completed their first 3D feature film “DragonBlade”, a huge step for the industry. It is a huge shame that the Cultural Revolution halted Chinese Animation for so long, and of course that Japan overshadows all of Asia in terms of animation, however hopefully China will pick up once more stronger and better than ever, and it will produce some beautiful animated films, such as the wonderful “Havoc in Heaven”, as it once did.