Daily Post: Childlike – China’s One-Child Rule
“Children see magic because they look for it.”
Today’s Daily Post asks us to illustrate “childlike”. Coincidentally, since returning from China I have thought a bit about their controversial “One-Child” policy. While we were there we had several conversations about its impact on their people and their society. For me, one story poignantly brought home the rule’s painful impact on China’s people.
“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.”
A young woman told us that at the time the policy was implemented, her family had two daughters. Because having a son is so important to Chinese families, her mother chose to become pregnant for a third time. She then hid in a storage shed for 5 months (while her daughters wondered what had happened to her) before giving birth to a son. Once he was born he was hidden with another family in a remote farm area until he was two years old. He was then returned to the family under the guise of being the son of a family relative. He grew up confused and unhappy and, not surprisingly, was never close to his parents or his siblings – eventually moving away to live elsewhere. The ruse was eventually discovered by local government representatives and the father was punished with a severe fine and the elimination of any promotional opportunities at his place of work.
“There is nothing more contagious than the laughter of young children.”
Beyond the emotional impact on it’s families, there are a number of societal influences resulting from the policy’s implementation. For example, China has historically been known for the care its younger generation focuses on their parents and grandparents. In fact, as I understand it, the country has not built elder-care facilities because traditionally they were not needed. With the one-child rule in place a single child could conceivably become responsible for four grandparents and two parents. There is a wide-spread concern that the elderly will not receive the care they need as single-children move away, become focused on other things, or are simply overwhelmed by their burdens.
“The soul is healed by being with children.”
In addition, many Chinese feel the rule has resulted in a generation of pampered children, ill-prepared to take on the responsibilities confronting them as they reach adulthood. The Chinese media call these children the “Little Emperors”, although in fairness those who have reached adulthood at this point have proven themselves for the most part to be responsible, caring and entirely capable of managing life’s challenges in China’s ever-evolving environment.
“ In every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”
While the one-child rule, which has now been in place for over thirty years, is strictly applied in the cities, it is more moderate in the countryside. Here, farmers are allowed a second child if their first is a girl or is somehow disabled. Further, the rule does not apply to China’s ethnic minorities or to foreign-born Chinese, rather it is focused on limiting the population growth among the Han majority. In fact, on a positive note, the restrictions seem to be working. While China’s population has grown 138% since the rule’s implementation, India’s has grown 180%. It is estimated that India’s population will surpass China’s by 2027.
“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”
George R.R. Martin
It is rumored that China is considering easing it’s one-child policy in the near future, with re-implementation possible should population growth again become an issue. Based on conversations with several young parents, the cost of raising a child in China may do more to limit population growth than any written or unwritten laws. The children we observed while visiting were obviously treasured by their parents and grandparents. For the most part they were also well-behaved, if a bit on the serious side – perhaps knowing the tremendous responsibilities that await them in the future.
“Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting.”
Richard Paul Evans
I spent some time with a teacher in Shanghai who told me she worried about the amount of pressure put on the children as early as their kindergarten year – pushed to learn things beyond their capacity. Let us hope China’s children are allowed the freedom to enjoy, to play, to wonder – after all, isn’t that what childhood is, or should be, about?
To see how some others viewed “childlike” click here.