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Amber: Hey everybody! Welcome back to Amber and Victor’s Chinese Buffet. I am Amber.
Victor: 大家好 (dàjiā hǎo), 我是 (Wǒ shì) Victor.
Amber: And today‘s segment on the show is called ‘General Tso’s China’. We do in this segment is we feature some tidbit from history and we go beyond. We talk about its impact on society today, the people and the country in China. So today’s topic is…
Victor: The one child policy.
Amber: The infamous one child policy you need to China as well. Subject too much controversy over the years.
Victor: So, the one child policy in Chinese is actually called 计划生育 (jìhuà shēngyù), which basically means birth planning.
Amber: When did the one child policy commit to effect, Victor?
Victor: Around 1979.
Amber: So, now that means it’s basically been 30 years that the one child policy has been in effect in China. So, definitely it’s had a huge impact. If you think about it, that basically all the young people have been affected to some extent up to the age of 30. It’s really had a huge impact on society. But it is interesting because all of us in the West, we think about the one child policy and we think that everyone just has one child. But in fact, in actuality, it’s said that only about 35 percent of China‘s population is currently subject to the one child policy restriction. Over the years, it’s kind of changed. There are some rules… certain ethnic groups are allowed to have more than one child and in certain circumstances, people are now allowed to have more than one child.
Victor: Right. A policy definitely has taken on different versions over the years. So, when it first started, it was basically over the concern of dramatic population growth that wasn’t going to be sustained through the resources available by that time, I think. But at that time, almost all couples who lived in urban areas are only allowed to have one children.
Amber: Yeah. The limits are really strictly enforced in the urban areas.
Victor: Right. Some exceptions include if the couple’s first child has disability or the couples belong to a specific ethnic groups, and in the countryside where it’s more traditional and… I think this has to do with a lot of the way the farming is done in a rural China, which is mostly still relies on manual labor. If the couple’s first child is a girl, they are allowed to have a second child because in rural China, traditionally, the men are the laborers in the field, so I guess out of that sort of concern.
Amber: And interestingly, I also was under the impression that basically every person under 30 would’ve been an only child in China, but I found… when I got there, it’s actually quite different. Many of my co-workers had siblings. A lot of them were from outside of urban areas originally. For example, my best friend in China, they have 6 children in their family and her parents are farmers and basically what happens if you violate the one child policy, you’re subject to fines.
Victor: Right.
Amber: And also at work, bonuses can be withheld. There are certain penalties they have to pay. And so, I asked my friend about that because her parents are quite poor and she said that basically there is ways around it that people find, which is sometimes the case in China with rules, but sometimes they’ll move around to different areas so they are not really on the radar or maybe they will pay the fine even sometimes because they think that it’s worth it.
Victor: Right. And I think, in a lot of ways, the policy itself is a bit difficult to reinforce because it goes against a lot of the traditional values, which is quite heavy. I think in the West, sometimes you will tend to forget that Chinese are actually very traditional society, despite the fact it’s only been an independent country for 60 years, but it carries a lot of tradition with it. One of them being the gender inequality traditionally in the feudal system. Boys I should say, are seen as much more valuable than girls because you know, first of all, like I said the farming thing is a major concern because it involves survival and secondly, the men will be able to carry on the family names, which is very important in Chinese values.
Amber: Yeah. And of course, we can see that this is also the dark side of the one child policy because many times people, as we know, do want a boy. So, a lot of people have implicated the policy and the increase in abortions and fantasize these sort of things. Okay so, knowing this, we all know we’ve all heard about the gender imbalance that has resulted. That there is a lot more boys in this generation under 30 than girls. So, people are concerned that as this generation ages, there may be not enough women to go around.
Victor: Right.
Amber: And therefore, it is a real problem. Something to consider. So, what about you, Victor? You are an only child, right? Tell us what it’s like being a one child policer.
Victor: I think personally, it didn’t really make any difference for me when I was in China because everybody else or your friends were single children too. So, that’s just a norm and you develop friendships with your friends instead of your siblings. And you know, when I came to the US and realize our people have brothers, sisters and whatever, it didn’t really bother me as much. Like I said, it’s just friendships. You develop friendships with other people instead of your own siblings in a way. But definitely this one child policy… I guess in the generation below me that the people that are slightly younger than I am because China since the late 70’s has been opening up. So, people are getting wealthier and wealthier and with one child policy, sometimes you know, you have the parents to one child and grandparents on both sides. So, you basically have three couples taking care of one child.
Amber: Yeah. A lot of attention.
Victor: A lot of attention sometimes spoils kids. It’s called the ‘little emperor syndrome’ or the ‘little princess syndrome’. I definitely know kids who are born to really wealthy families and they just eat and they have the obesity problems because their parents want them to eat, grandparents always feed them because they have the money and they think they are valuable. That’s the only thing they have, you know. So, these kids…some of them grow up to be quite enact, if you will, to adjust to the society because they are so used to everything going their way all the time.
Amber: And actually, it’s a lot of pressure for the kids too because some of my friends who are the only children, they do feel the pressure because not only do maybe the parents give them everything but they expect everything out of them.
Victor: All right.
Amber: All their hopes and dreams, you know, for their children are placed on this one child whether… whatever they want them to become professionally, to become rich and sometimes, there is a lot of pressure for the kid as well.
Victor: Right.
Amber: One thing I did notice is that a lot of my Chinese friends, they would talk about their 哥哥 (gēgē) or their 弟弟 (dìdì), which means older brother, younger brother and I was always thinking, “Wait a minute, you don’t have any brothers but you guys will call your cousins your brothers or your sisters.”
Victor: So, the sense of family definitely extends much more now that they only have one child in their family.
Amber: So, I think the sibling itself has been replaced with the cousins and that feels like the sibling for the only children.
Victor: Right. And just on the other side of the policy though, I know it’s been kind of controversial in the West and people argue for different reasons or whatever. But you know, if you have really been to China, listeners, you know how crowded China is. Basically, the population seen is… China has about the same land areas in United States. But only about a third of it is actually inhabitable. But the population is four times as big as the one at the US. So, a quarter of the US population can squeeze all of them into a third of the country. That’s what you get in China. So, definitely it’s kind of made out of necessity as well. This past summer, I was in Beijing and I had an American colleague who was working with me at that time. And he had never been to China before and he was in Beijing and he told me you know, now after he’s been into China, he really understands why there needed to be a one child policy. Because the population problem is very serious.
Amber: Yeah and interestingly, they estimate that it’s prevented more than 250 million births since its implementation. So, that’s a quarter of a billion people.
Victor: In a way. When you think about it, despite all the other facts that have been brought up by this policy, it was born for a necessary reason in many ways.
Amber: But interestingly, now for example, in cities like Shanghai, I got a friend who got married and she was an only child. Her husband also was an only child. But now, the government has found that in places like Shanghai, the population is aging.
Victor: All right.
Amber: And about 22 percent of the city’s residents are over age 60 and they think it’s going to rise. It’s predicted to rise to about 34 percent by 2020.So, they are actually now allowing for the first-time young couples who are both only children, they are allowed to have two children.
Victor: Right.
Amber: So, if you both came from Shanghai as only children, you are allowed to have two children now.
Victor: Right.
Amber: So, did you see that the problem is with these kind of policies is that there is sort of the flip side that now the population is aging and they need a young workforce to replace it.
Victor: Right. So, they are trying to kind of like fix some of the other side effects of the policy.
Amber: Okay so, if there is any only children listeners out there from China, you can come and share your experience at the website and tell us how it feels to be the only child in the family in China.
Victor: And don’t forget to check us out on iTunes.
Amber: That’s right. And you can subscribe to our Chinese Buffet show on iTunes now. Just go to the iTunes store and search Chinese Buffet and you will find us.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: And you can leave us a review too.
Victor: Definitely.
Amber: So, that’s it for the Chinese Buffet today and if you want to learn more Chinese or about Chinese culture, make sure come visit us at chineseclass101.com, we have lots of lessons there that can give you lots of insights about China and also teach you to speak Chinese. 再见 (zàijiàn)!
Victor: 再见 (zàijiàn).