Friday, October 1, 2010

Chinese families, baby boy or baby girl?

The Great Wall of China
During Chinese class our laoshi (teacher), along with teaching us the mysteries of her ancient language, gives us also little pearls of oriental wisdom and precious information about China's culture and society.

Last week we studied how to approach people, introduce ourselves and ask for others' names. In China there is the unspoken rule that you cannot ask directly for the personal name if a person is older than you or in a higher position: in this case, you will need to politely ask for the family name.

At this juncture, laoshi told us about the controversial topic of Chinese people preferring to have a baby boy instead of a girl.

As in most countries, also in China the new-born takes his/her father's family name, so in order to keep the name alive through the future generations, when women learnt they were expecting a baby girl, they would have an abortion.

Truth be said, in the (recent) past also in Italy having a baby boy was much preferred, to the extent that when I was born and my grandmother learnt I was a girl, with a hint of disappointment, told my mother just recovering from the birth: "Umm...it's ok too...".

While in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai this practice has disappeared, in other parts of China, especially rural areas in the 1970s and 1980s when the country faced the biggest poverty of modern times, it had started becoming too common.

This has led the Chinese government to come up with a drastic plan: it is now illegal for new parents to check on the sex of the baby. This way women won't get an abortion and the awkward situation of having a nation made only of men will be avoided.

In addition, due to the boom that made China's population reach the figure of 1.3 billion people, the government has adopted the two-child policy, meaning that a family can only have two children, after that the mother can be sterilised or, in case of a third child, the parents would get fined.

This applies only for Chinese people: the law, in fact, exempts from this rule the minorities such as Mongolian and Tibetan that, *because* minorities, have the right to have as many children as they wish.

I was pleased to learn that in China women keep their own family name and don't take their husband's one, as it happens for example in the UK. "We must thank Mao for giving us this power," told us our laoshi in a burst of national pride. I have to agree, in addition to avoiding all the hassle of changing the name in ID papers, I wouldn't be very willing to give up the name my father gave me.

15 comments:

Germán 兄弟 خِرمن said...

Nice to see a propaganda-free account on the topic for a change :D

AngelaCorrias said...

Aww thank you German! Just reporting things as I see and hear them directly from the original country, as this is the main reason of my travels :)

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Barbara Weibel said...

Nicely done, Angela. I'd known about the practice of aborting girls and the one child per family rule but assumed it had gone the way of the "thought police," however one day in a restaurant in Beijing, we were talking with grandparents who were doting over their grandson. These were one of the few people we met in the community who spoke a little English and we politely inquired if the boy was their first grandchild. With apparent pride, they were quick to correct us: "Family planning, one child only!" Very interesting.

AngelaCorrias said...

Thanks Barbara. I thought there was one-child policy too, apparently now they brought it to two.
And apparently in rural areas still people prefer having boys so the government had to approve that drastic rule. Seriously, how do they think they will keep having boys if there are no women??

Rais Nur Arief said...

I have been in china at 2008 but I haven't heard this issues. Great job to you :)

Josh said...

I'm not sure who told you about the law for minorities, but I know for sure that they don't get unlimited children. The law allows for two children per urban family and three for rural families. This has caused a little bit of friction for groups that are used to having 3-5 kids per couple.

AngelaCorrias said...

Hi Josh,

our uni professor told us, also, the two-child policy doesn't apply if a Chinese is married to a minority ethnicity. I will look further into this matter and check the law directly, so I'll be sure myself.

Charu said...

this is true in many countries - in India, where I come from, male children are preferred, and not just by the poor - even the well off want boys to continue their family name and 'honour'! and even though sex-determination is prohibited by law, there are enough clinics and doctors willing to do it for a price... (first time on this blog - enjoyed going thru it!)

AngelaCorrias said...

Hi Charu,

thanks for your comment. Yes, unfortunately preferring a boy instead of a girl is quite common in many countries. In Italy I've never heard of women aborting girls, but especially in the past families would rather have a boy. Even now, although very rarely, you can find some "old-fashioned" parents who still prefer a baby boy, but fortunately it's not that common anymore.

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After reading your blog I started missing my teacher a lot and then I called her after 12 years I speak to her she felt so happy and the amazing thing was she recognized me very easily I experience as if she was waiting for my call, we talked about many incidents and every incident which was related to me was save in her mind and now very soon I have planned to visit her. Thanks to your blog.

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