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One-Child Policy in China

In: People

Submitted By fancheng
Words 3548
Pages 15
Fancheng Wang
Professor Steven Cassedy
MMW 22 A10
March 16, 2012
One-child Policy in China
China’s one-child policy, one of the most controversial policies, has been intensely changing China’s social structure since 1979. This policy worked as a milestone on controlling the mass amount of population and had a profound impact on all aspects of Chinese’s life. Apparently, it decelerates the growth rate of population; otherwise, there could be 23 million newborns in China annually (Shanor 53). To some extent, this policy relieves a comparative land shortage under the mass population in the countryside (Davin 65). In addition, it raises the average level of education and health care in the city because parents are likely to put more effort into taking care of the only child in the household (Kane 109). Despite its marvelous success in both the city and countryside, some scholars are concerned with the side effects tied to this policy, such as “little emperors”, labor force shortage and an aging society, which will only escalate in the future (Shanor 54).
Although this policy impact on people's lives are good or bad cannot draw a conclusion, but through some social problems, it is not hard to foresee the future of this policy having negative influence on the only-child’s different stages of age. Since the first generation of children under this policy have already reached their thirties and have become part of the mainstream society, these side effects have gradually impacted their lives. This research paper is trying to answer the following question: How did China’s one-child policy affect the city and countryside during the 20th century? While this question suggests many possible answers, this paper will argue that the one-child policy has caused more social problems in the city than in the countryside by progressively generating side effects, which resulted in spoiled children, shrinkage of the market supply for labor, and an alteration of the family structure into a new aging model. The following evidence will illustrate the chain of social problems caused by the one-child policy that negatively affects the city and the countryside. After more than thirty years practice, the one-child policy influences the children, the youth, and the elder. Therefore, as significant as it may seem, the one-child policy affect the whole society. The topic of how the one-child policy affected the city and the countryside is significant because these children will represent China’s future and they are also the prospective builders of China’s economy. Since there are other contributing factors, it is very hard to compare them in one perspective as it affects people’s lives in the city and in the countryside. After pinning down all three scenarios, which are the only-child in his/her childhood, entering the labor market, and forming a new family after marriage, the thesis of this research paper is significant because it touches on the idea that there are implications to the one-child policy and scholars should not only view it as an effective policy of population control in China. Instead, it argues for the side phenomenon that the one-child policy produced negative effects to the traditional concept of Chinese family and the interrelationship between parents and children. Since each family only has one child that parents put all their care on this child, this over-protection prevents children’s normal personality development. Since 1979, most families in the city have formed into one-child family type, regardless how many children the parents really want (Poston 435). This limitation of birth may “lead some parents to overindulge or overprotect their only child” (Poston 435). The government did not realize this policy would eliminate and reverse the “traditional values of docility, obedience, and group cooperation” to children about what is proper relationship in the family and community (Shanor 54). Usually these only-children are the center of the family at home, they have the concentration of love from their parents and grandparents. The parents in the city have a higher expectation of academic success for their child but ignore their personal characteristics by fulfilling their child’s material satisfaction easily. Therefore, the inner world of only-child is fragile like glass since they are told not to worry about anything except study. These children are getting used to get whatever they want, so it is hard for them when they have to face difficulties and failure alone. A survey answered by the schoolteachers can see the teachers’ complaining about these only-children are “willful, disobedient, and unruly, spoiled by parents and grandparents” (Shanor 54). The accusations towards these children are the title given as “Little Emperors”; they are described “uncooperative and selfish with their peers; rude and demanding to their elders, anathemas in China” (Shanor 55). There is a common mistake made by most Chinese parents that they excessive focus on their children’s personal need but ignore their personality need, emphasis on their self-acceptance instead of their moral development which leads to the only children’s personality characteristics develops very unbalanced. Unlike the children in the city, the children from the countryside cannot be satisfied with all their material needs due to the backward economy; nevertheless, the family still give the child the best they can offer which is not always the best for their children’s growth. Some well-off families from countryside can afford to pay the costs of sending their children to school in the city for better education; however, it sometimes can hurt the children if they cannot adjust to life from the countryside to the life in the city. According to Sun’s explanation on the relationship between the only-children and their peers, since only-child has no sibling that can always company with, “peer relationships undoubtedly occupy an important position in their lives” (Sun 206). Statistics shows about “80% of only-children have bosom friends so that they can play together and fend off loneliness, but there are also some 20% of only-children who have no intimate friends, feel lonely, and expect more friends” (Sun 206). However, these 20% may be the children from the countryside, some children from the countryside finding themselves different from the other children and admire the life in the city. They desire to have the same life as their classmates. As a result, failing to achieve the demands they give their parents, some of them may use extreme measures to get what they want, like stealing or cheating. Other cases are showing there are a proportion of children from countryside, who compare themselves to the children in the city financially, which lowers their self-esteem to some extent. All of these are not helpful for them to establish a right value of the life. Only-children from the countryside have fairly “strong needs for intimacy, endurance and help, but some of them have more aggression needs than accomplishment needs” (Sun 200). However, a study shows some families living in the countryside tend to live in close to one another, and “these only children do not grow up isolated from other children” because the young children are raised in a commonplace together taken care of by some elders in the village when their parents go to work (Poston 435). They are not treated as an emperor but as a normal child that can “fight, play, laugh and share with each other” which is better for their personality development (Poston 435). The little emperor phenomenon is more serious in the city than in the countryside; it has a great impact on the child’s personality and characteristics development. It seems that always giving child the best is not the best choice for him. Actually, this will turn this child into a self-centered and selfish person. Not only that, isolating children under the name of protection will stop children communicating with each other. Lacking the ability of communicating with others will make it harder for these children when they reach the age to look for a job. With the growing amount of one-child households, the society began to criticize the individual’s lack of personality. Based on the statistics provided by the China Population Information and Research Center “it is estimated that by the end of the 20th century, the population of Chinese only children has exceeded 90 million” (Sun 199). Sun and Zhao have strengthened in their journal Only Children in China the “significance of understand characteristics of only children’s personality and analyze factors influencing their personality development”, since a child’s personality development is essential to his future education and career achievement in a positive way (Sun 199). Therefore, with the growing number of the only child, their personality and characteristic development is becoming more and more important that neither government nor parents has realized. Inevitably, the one’s raised as the only child will meet challenges in the labor market when they reach their adulthood. Because the children are treated as the emperor at home in their childhood, they are lack of the ability of cooperation and have trouble to work with people as a team. The youth in the city have this idea that they will obtain a desirable position since they always get what they want without any difficulties, however once they reach the labor market they experience an opposite world as they imagine and they are not satisfied with what they get from their job. This is not a single case and based on the graph illustrated in the Ageing Population Lo claims “it is thus not surprising that manufacturers are finding it difficult to hire young workers” (Lo 111). The typical feature for only-child are easily give up and no willing in education employment or training. The number is growing of the people not willing to work hard to make themselves a living but relying on their parents’ saving. The society gives this group of people a title as Neet group. According to survey conducted by Ministry of Labor and Social Security, in around hundred cities nationwide, the newly added labor force reached around 10 million and total positions available in urban areas reached 24 million in 2001 (An 107). On the other hand, Ministry of Education calculates that the number of college graduates reached around two million and half million among these graduates were waiting for employment opportunities in 2003 which indicates there is some contradictory between these two date (An 107). The philosophy of these young unemployed workers when they are looking for jobs is to “wait for opportunities, count on the government and ask for good pay” with extremely high expectations about work conditions and salary (An 108). The only-children are sitting back and waiting the opportunities come with unrealistic expectation of getting ideal jobs regardless their own personal abilities, this is one side effect caused by the one-child policy that affect on children on their childhood. Compared to the city, the drop of labor force in the countryside does not affect as bad as in the city because there are bigger population in the countryside and the modernization of the agriculture production. The birth rate in the countryside is considerably higher than the rate in the city and this gap in the birth rate is made due to the regional difference “between the backward interior countryside and the well-developed cities” (Lo 99). Therefore, the population in the countryside is bigger than the population in the city. Facing such a big labor force, the problem that the youth in the countryside need to solve is the “transfer from rural work force to nonagricultural sectors” because the labor in the countryside is considered lower quality workers (An 109). In order to change this situation, more and more youth in the countryside choose to go to city for future education and working which is one reason causes the decrease in the working force in the countryside. On the other hand, with the development of the technology, most work can be done by machine instead of by hand which means there are not as many labor needed as before, the mechanization reduce the number of people working in the farm. As a result, the only child policy did not affect as bad in the countryside when compared to the city in the labor market. Nevertheless, there are still many issues that need to be addressed in the future market in the countryside such as there is an abundance of lower level professionals, but fewer intermediate and advanced ones in the countryside; there are many professionals in traditional industries, but fewer in high-tech industries; there are many professionals in large and medium-sized cities, but fewer in small towns and countryside area (An 108). Besides the above reasons that cause the labor shortage, the main threat in the labor market for both city and countryside is the labor shortage after the retirement of the baby boom in the 60’s. After the People’s Republic of China founded in 1949, Mao Zedong’s ambition was to build up an economically advantaged China with a “massive productive labor force” (Lo 97). He believed that a big population can create a powerful China, as a result this policy had led to “persistently high birth rates for almost thirty years” (Lo 97). According to his belief that people not only have a mouth to consume but also have two hands to produce which means more people can create more labor, and more labor equivalents a better China. This directly cause the baby boom in the 60’s, and these people who were born in the 60’s laid the foundation for the economic takeoff of China in the 1990s; however, it also means after these people retire, there will be a big gap in the labor force. According to Lo’s Ageing Population “China’s ‘baby boom’ generation was born in the late 1960s (which) means that by 2020, these baby boomers will be reaching retirement age so that there will be fewer people entering the workforce than retiring” (Lo 100). Because the children of these baby boom are mostly only-child. The predictable labor shortage problem means that China’s economic model has to be “high value-added production”; unfortunately, China’s labor model has not been “away from labor-intensive low-end manufacturing exports and towards more consumption-oriented” (Lo 97). Therefore, aging population and the shrinkage of labor will decrease the China’s economy inevitably. Besides, the succession gap in intermediate and advanced professional group would come to the surface due to the issue of “aging” and “breaks of personnel structure” (An 108). Matchlessly, 5.5% of the whole professional and technical personnel are higher-level professionals; not only that, among them 88% are over 60 years old, and the professionals under 35 years old are merely 1.1% (An 108). When an only child from two different households come together and wed, many turn into a “four-two-one” family model, which means the young couple needs to support four elderly and raise one child. The commentator from China Daily describes this model looks like a “reverse-pyramid dynamic with four grandparents, two parents and one child” (China Daily). For many modern couples, the best thing about this type of family model is these new adults can have a relief from the daily working pressure and temporally forget about the responsibility of taking care of their child since the parents are living with them and nursing their only grandchild. However, it is still a burden for both the only child from the city or countryside to physically and financially taking care of four elders and one little child at the same time. Since most of these young parents are only-child of their families, this type of family model is becoming the common form in Chinese cities, as a result of three decades of the application of the one-child policy. However, although these young parents are enjoy the benefit of having six people to take care of one child, “sociologists warn that in 10 to 15 years the burden of providing elderly care could be too much for smaller families” (China Daily). Because “elders in these families are in good health now and can help with chores and childcare”, but what if any of them are in poor health, then the problematic future can be predicted that the young couple will be bruised and battered by putting extra time and effort to take care of both the young child and the elderly besides their daily job (China Daily). As a tradition, Chinese society values filial piety highly and an aging society will cause “less saving and more consumption in the economy” especially in the city due to the high living expense in the city (Lo 115). Also, the fact families are shrinking will be a pressure for the only-children in the coming years after they reach their adulthood. It becomes a huge burden that aging population in the city is disproportional and it is like a “time bomb waiting to wreak havoc on China’s economy” for the next generation (Lo 96). In contrast, some scholars have several plausible answers for how this policy affects the city and the countryside. They argued that the one-child policy could challenge the traditional ideology of son preference (Davin 38). According to this view, this policy has made half of Chinese families take the risk of having no “male heir,” which would result in the end of the ancestral line (Davin 38). Chinese peasants who rely on physical strength prefer to have sons due to that fact that there would be more potential labor force that would then improve family finances (Davin 40). Other scholars suggest that having more than one child is a burden on the family in the city since both husband and wife are working. Moreover, these scholars regard children in cities as “more an economic liability than an asset” because “the cost of living in the cities in much higher than in the countryside” (Kane 104). The reason they gave these opposite statements is because the income distribution in China was unequal, which resulted in the city and the countryside having different beliefs on how to raise children along with what they expected from their children. Although both of these answers provide acceptable interpretations on how China’s one-child policy affected the city and the countryside, these scholars only look at what is on the surface, while they fail to uncover a chain of social problems brought by this one-child policy. The influence of these side effects of one-child policy in China will gradually appear over time. It is unknown, till now, to what extent will this policy affect people’s life among different age groups. This paper is taking about the personality feature and social characteristic of these only children had raised the concern of the society; the contradictory in the future labor market that young people will suffer in unemployment while the market is experiencing a shortage of workers; moreover, the four-two-one family model will overturn the traditional meaning of family. All of these observations reinforce the thesis that the one-child policy has caused more social problems in the city than in the country. However, this topic need some more further research through schools, youth organizations, and community service centers to study only children’s behavior, their future career trend, and how they take care of their parents when they get old. This will help a better understanding of how only-child policy influences the whole society among different age groups as a whole instead just focus on its impact on children’s personality and personality development. The significance of only child policy is beyond a population control function but change the future China’s society tremendously. Only children, as a part of this policy, should let the society know their concern about how this policy is affecting their lives now and will influence their future as well.

Works cited
An, Guoqi. “Chinese Youth’s Employment” Chinese Youth in Transition. Ed. Jieying Xi, Yunxiao Sun, Jing Jian Xiao. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate, 2006.
Davin, Delia. “The Single-child Family Policy in the Countryside.” China’s One-child Family Policy. Ed. Elisabeth Croll, Delia Davin and Penny Kane. Hong Kong: Macmillan. 1985.
Falbo, Toni and Dudley L. Poston, Jr. “Academic Performance and Personality Traits of Chinese Children: ‘Onlies’ Versus Others.” American Journal of Sociology , Vol. 96, No. 2 (Sep., 1990), pp. 433-451. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2781108
Kane, Penny. “The Single-child Family Policy in the Cities.” China’s One-child Family Policy. Ed. Elisabeth Croll, Delia Davin and Penny Kane. Hong Kong: Macmillan. 1985.
Liu, Xiaozhu. “Income Distribution In Chinese Society.” Changes in China’s Labor Market: Implications for the Future. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 1996.
Li, Min. “Age-old problem looms for families.” China Daily. October 14, 2010 China.org.cn
Lo, Chi. Understanding China’s Growth. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2007.
Shanor, Donald & Constance Shanor. China Today. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 1995.
Sun, Yunxiao. “Only Children in China” Chinese Youth in Transition. Ed. Jieying Xi, Yunxiao Sun, Jing Jian Xiao. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate, 2006.

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