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Research in China

What does one-child, one-family really look like?

In rural families in general there tends to be a desire for many children. In China, strict enforcement of the one-child rule has encountered determined resistance, ranging from open confrontation with birth control personnel, to evading detection of unauthorized births, to the most drastic forms of female infant abandonment and sex-selective abortion, resulting in a skewed male-to-female ratio. As a response to such strong resistance, since the mid-1980s the Chinese government has relaxed the one-child rule to allow rural couples whose first birth has produced a girl to have a second child.

"One summer morning in 2005 …

... I traveled to a township seat near the eastern edge of River Crossing village in north- east China. At the courtyard in front of the new, five- story main building, a shiny, black Nissan Infiniti sedan had just arrived from the county authority. Escorted by several local officials, two county government officials began to review the township government’s preparation for a showcase “On-the-Spot Presentation on Family Planning,” to be held that afternoon. During the scheduled showcase event, an inspection party—comprised of officials at several levels of government—would come to examine “on-the-spot” the township’s achieve- ments in implementing the state’s birth control policy. That day, journalists and news reporters would also follow the inspection party’s entire review tour. The event would be publicized across the province via newspaper and tele- vision. Through satellite TV and the Internet, the showcase presentation might reach national and even international audiences. Writ large, this image-managing event encapsulates China’s recent, post-socialist transformation since the 1990s." [view source]

Chen, Junjie, "Performing the Family Planning Project in Post-Socialist China," Anthropology News, April 2010, pg.46


Yet, in one township study, within 20 years the total number of families with one female child who voluntarily applied for a "singleton-child certificate" - meaning, they promise not to try for another child - significantly increased from 9 in 1987, to 91 in 1996, to 298 in 2006. The author suggests that this emerging transition is closely related to a movement away from the male- oriented Confucian ideal of filial piety among younger parents. "Currently, an increasing number of sons have failed to fulfill their role of offering adequate support to their aged parents, who often expressed their grievance through moral condemnations and occasion- ally by bringing lawsuits against their unfilial sons. In contrast, a significant number of married daughters, whose filial obliga- tions were in the past trans- ferred to their parents-in-law upon marriage, have shouldered the responsibility neglected by their married brothers and have become an important source of both emotional and financial support for their natal parents. Accordingly, most couples I inter- viewed expressed their belief that not only do daughters tend to be more filial than sons (in terms of emotional connection and support), they can also be more reliable in providing monetary support for their aged parents."

"Nowadays, rituals such as visiting ancestors’ graves and hiring a band for a deceased parent’s funeral have become more about spectacle (eg, putting up a show of being filial and demonstrating wealth) than obligation. Meanwhile, under the impact of China’s burgeoning market economy, they have further developed this new family norm into an ideal based in the benefits of increasing material comfort for the nuclear family. Whether that successful child is a girl or a boy becomes irrelevant, as long as the parent can ensure a comfort- able future for the child and increased economic security for their old age. Since the late 1980s, a large number of rural women have joined the labor force to seek employ- ment opportunities outside their villages, and have brought home what has become an indispens- able portion of family income. Women’s empowerment in marriage and the workforce has undermined the necessity to have a son, tradi- tionally a vital step for a newly-wed woman to secure her status in her husband’s family. [view source]

Shi, Lihong, "Embracing a Singleton Daughter: Transforming Reproductive Choice in Rural Northeast China," Anthropology News, March 2009, pp 15-16.


China's education creating depressed children

by Liz Dwyer

"When students in Shanghai scored in first place in reading, math, and science on the 2010 Programme for International Student Assessment test, educators and politicians around the world started looking into how they could model their education system's on China's. But there are major downsides to the Chinese approach: A Pew survey earlier this year revealed that the test-obsessed culture and competitive nature of Chinese schools has created a generation of depressed and suicidal students. Now, concerned parents and teachers are speaking out about what is happening in schools to cause the crisis." go to goodmagazine


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