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China: Half of a Kid in Shanghai

Published: 5.1.2013
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.

Hundreds pass by me and I have to wonder what is so different about them. After a while I got it – Chinese look like sphinxes when they walk. They have absolutely same facial expressions – impenetrable, non-transparent, every one has the same poker face.

Only exception are those who are talking on the phone so they show some mimics. In the moment they end their call they again begin to use a perfect poker face. Then there is another thing that I “discover”. Unlike all other cities I have visited (and there were many) streets of Shanghai are crowded only with adults. I haven’t seen any mom with a baby carriage or with a toddler.

The reason lies, perhaps, in the fact that the adults/children ratio is very disproportional. On one Shanghai mother there is half-a-baby according to stats. I asked about it our guide and she resolutely defended the one-child model, however, she adds the model fulfilled its purpose in many parts of China and also that some families in Shanghai are allowed to have two children.

I don’t know what to imagine under the term „a suitable married couple“. The ultimate decision has Shanghai Committee for Planned Parenthood. Chosen couples can look forward to visits of volunteers and officials who will very resolutely recommend them to father two children. If the family didn’t like it, or there were some problems, emergency commissioners can “provide emotional and financial consulting,” explains our guide.

 

It seems very sad to me, however, typically Chinese thing. Exceptions had only minorities and sparsely populated rural areas, rest of Chinese were troubled by the central government that imposed harsh restrictions. For example those who obeyed had financial bonuses, free schools, cheaper healthcare… and “rebels” had the opposite – abortions, unemployment, worse living conditions, sterilization, and, the most extreme cases, parents who desperately wanted another children were imprisoned.

The fairytale about three princesses is absolute nonsense in China. A girl is simply not “expedient” because once she will change her parents for her husband, and leave them growing old alone. What are they going to do with it? Until recently it was common to have an abortion if a girl was about to be born. Somewhere right after a birth were baby girls even killed. Different land means different manners.

I try to discuss this topic with my guide, as well, despite the fact the topic isn’t likeable. She is aware of her luck. “Yes, it used to be like that. It is based on our tradition and in distant provinces these things still happen, perhaps. However, our government fights this problem! When a first-born baby is a girl, the family can have another child. Yet for several years parents are not allowed to know the gender of baby before a birth,” guide defends her culture.

One thing is sure – there are not many children in China. Thirty years of restriction allegedly prevented more than half-a-billion births. The government planned it to be this way and it succeeded. However, the government is again in dire straits. There are so many generations who didn’t have siblings, cousins, and there is also many people growing older and older that it will come the time when only children will have to support them. It won’t be easy. China is about to face the 4-2-1 phenomenon. One child will have to take care of two parents and four grandparents.

I remember underdeveloped Qinghaj lying on west and hordes of running children with snots under their noses. Although, they don’t eat in McDonald´s, don’t drink Evian water, are not pushed by their stressed parents to do sports and duties at homes, they at least don’t face the gloom fate of small caesars in big cities. They together will take a good care of their parents and most certainly they will have enough energy to help each other.

Text/photo: Andrea Fantová



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