China First Hand

14 February 2006

You Are The One

Filed under: Culture — china1sthand @ 7:00 pm

Each couple in China can have only one child, or incur a huge fine. This was a sensible policy: With too large a population, a country cannot support all it’s people. As a second generation are being born under the restriction, far fewer people are now in poverty. But can you imagine a world without brothers or sisters? I mean without ANY people having any siblings at all??This world exists – and it lies between Russia and the South China Sea.

Many people like to have kids, and dream of their large family. In China, those people are either sad, or punished. There are other people that face pain and loss: Many young girls that become pregnant feel greater pressure to abort rather than take their one chance in less than perfect circumstances. There are shocking stories of how people (try to) remove unwanted pregnancies. Also, how about the distress of having to forget that second child you’ve yearned for, that you would at times willingly accept the lifelong debt and shame it would bring, just to hold it in your arms? Ladies – perhaps you will better understand how hard this grief could be.

From the view of the child, it is also difficult. This child is the only chance the parents have, so he or she alone must live up to all of their expectations. Children are put under incredible pressure in China, and suicide is the biggest cause of death for young Chinese people. If you make it to adulthood, you then have two elderly people that you alone must support. Many argue that having more than one child is good, because it allows the children to share and provides them with a lifelong companion. We all have a natural desire to bond with other people. I think this is a reason why friendships in China are particularly close. (Female friends, for example, often walk hand-in-hand, and men behave much more affectionately than they would in the West).

Man-woman relationships are no exception to this theory of close bonding. Today is Valentine’s Day, and the way I am seeing couples behave today highlights some big differences between China and the West. Chinese culture promotes stories of love and romance, and all youngsters appear to aspire to this ideal. The number one Hollywood film of all time in this country is the love story “Titanic” and my friend used to like watching old black and white love stories on afternoon British TV. When compared with this, the West is rather promiscuous. In China, family is a vital part of life and the West does not present a great record of family commitment. The media does not apparently miss a trick to emphasise these immoral ways. I don’t exactly disagree with these views. My culture has taught me quite a shallow view of relationships with a partner. Today I watch Chinese men have no shame publicly expressing their love for their girlfriend. I hear stories of men serenading women under windows, and waiting outside for them all night. In China, it’s more cuddles than snogs. It’s a lifetime – not one night.

I think the main reasons for differences between China and the West are all of these things I have discussed. Couples only have one chance of a child, so they need to choose the right person with whom to start a family. As an only child, more pressures and responsibilities are placed on you, so you are more inclined to try sharing this burden. Finally, without siblings, Chinese children have a greater need for strong bonds with other people. These are all consequences of the one-child policy. Which leads me to wonder: Without this policy, would China be the same as the West?

There is certainly an interest in the undesirable aspects of western culture: Pirated copies of “Sex and the City” are popular, some people practice promiscuity, and sex is talked about more openly. For better or worse, western imports to China that didn’t exist 30 years ago, have arrived. But these can’t all be bad: Values of affection and commitment is exactly what Valentine’s Day represents.


1 Comment »

  1. […] Study is the most important thing in Chinese culture. You must listen to the teacher, remember the facts they tell you, and recite them back. You don’t have time for trivial activities such as playing. It is an examinations culture, with expectations very high, and both parents placing their hopes on you. […]

    Pingback by Education, Education, Education « China First Hand — 16 September 2006 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

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