Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Twenty million babies

are born in China every year. 20 million. Every year. That is more than double the population of Michigan and approximately the population of Australia - a continent. Perhaps some of you read the recent article about China's increasing rate of detected birth defects due to the effects of pollution and it cited some staggering numbers. China has a people problem. There are too many. It is a hard concept for an outsider to grasp that a country views its people as a burden, and not as an asset.

But that explains why everything is overcrowded. There is not enough to go around. The schools are at over capacity. (We had some strings pulled in order to get the kids into Kindergarten. They are set up for a class size of 45. Carlos and Elena are both student #50 for their class.) Stores are always jammed pack, no matter what time of day you go. You wait with everyone else to get a haircut, to get a seat in the dining hall and do banking. Bus drivers try to squeeze in just one more. The universities do not have enough room to accept nearly the number who qualify to attend. Even if you do graduate with top honors, job prospects are few. There is competition for everything. Even in preschool, one needs to outsmart and outspeed your classmate or you're the one that gets left behind.

China's one-child policy has been in effect for almost 24 years. Now the products of the beginnings of that policy are now having children. One child born to one-child parents. That means that baby has no siblings, no aunts, uncles or cousins. Family consists of parents and grandparents. It is the strangest sight at the kids' school to see no other parents with other children and no pregnant moms picking up their preschooler. Parents constantly fill their "only's" after school time with more lessons and tutoring. The hope of a good future for the parents in old age depends largely on how well their child does in his/her adult years. Everything rides on the competition for the best schools, etc. Our kids are the only sibling group in the school (I haven't seen any twins yet) and their classmates don't have the concept of "brother" and/or "sister". Surprisingly though, there are exceptions to the one-child policy. Rural people can have more than one child. Many of my students come from rural areas and have one, two and even three siblings. But people in the cities are much more restricted. There are heavy fines (some wealthy people just pay the fines - money talks), loss of job and losing face with your neighbors are some of the consequences. Also that second child doesn't "exist". He/she can not get an education or medical care because that child cannot be registered - it's "one per customer". The one-child policy is very unpopular. No one likes the government dictating family planning. But yet, everyone understands the need to curb the population because they personally feel the not-so-pleasant side effects of a super-sized country.


Anonymous said...

How sad to not have any siblings. Although there are days when I think Nicolas would gladly become an "only" child to get away from Alex! China would frown on us as we have just added another child to our family! Baby Grace came home to us from the hospital at 4 days old weighing 8#4oz on Oct 11th. She is currently a "foster" baby but the prospects look good for changing to "our" baby. Alex is in love and we spend all of our time trying to protect her from his intense 2 year old love! Mike and I are sleep deprived but I am loving having PINK in the house!!!
Miss you!
Jeni, Mike, Nic, Alex and baby Grace

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Julie said...

Wow! With you guys having six you all would have been tossed out of the country! And for me, single mom with 3 girls , I would have no friends. Yes, we are lucky to be Americans.I have been showing my girls the pictures of there counsins and Jacqulynn 6 is all excited. She wants to send them presents, so how do we do this?
Love Julie, and the "LYNNS"