Saturday, June 02, 2012

China's grandparents

In a park in Beijing.
Many Chinese families still live with three and four generations under one roof. Some of my acquaintances leave their children in the care of their parents while they work.

In our neighborhood of apartment houses on the edge of the Tsinghua campus, we often see grandparents taking little ones with them on the back of their bicycles or walking and playing with them. It is very touching to see how much they enjoy each other's company.

Trying to catch butterflies in a plastic bag on the grounds of the Old Summer
 Palace in Beijing. Grandpa encouraged the boy and doubled over laughing
when he came up empty.

Mom and Grandma encourage some hamming.
With China's one-child policy, every child is in the care of six adults -- two parents and four grandparents. And the reverse is also true; each child born under this policy has responsibility for the care of six adults.

Male children in particular have a big expectation on them to care for their elders. A young man's parents will provide him with a house so he can get married. A young man with no house and no car is considered a poor marriage prospect.

In the Forbidden City.
Some Chinese say that all the attention lavished by adults on the children of this generation has made them self-absorbed and spoiled. Supposedly they are "little emperors." We do not have that impression, but we don't have that much interaction with them. I have seen a few examples of kids melting down in stores but not many.

Posing for pictures in an emperor's costume.

Worrisome policy

Like some of the developed countries with very low fertility rates, China faces a long-term problem of a small population of young people working to support a large population of older people. According to an article on the topic in the New England Journal of Medicine, "a lack of adequate pension coverage in China means that financial dependence on offspring is still necessary for approximately 70 percent of elderly people." Some commentators say it is time for the policy to end.

China is opening up, slowly, by fits and starts

Guangxi: Terraced rice paddies, sugarloaf mountains
Three days on the Yangtze River
Video: Chinese calligraphy in Xi'an
The madding crowd in the Forbidden City
Why the Chinese will never drop their written language
Impressions of China
A little tour of Tsinghua University campus
Deciphering China, ideograms to menus

1 comment:

  1. Koka Kalandadze5:07 AM

    As I know from my Chinese friends, one child policy doesnt hold as much as it did earlier...

    Now it s a matter of ability to keep your family going rather than law which may prohibit more than one child...

    I.e. Friend of mine told me they that he had 2 sisters and one brother,,, and as I remember he told me education was provided for him only for free because he was the first one to be born...

    The latter I think illustrates how policy plays out and also linkage between income level and opportunity cost of having more than one child, isnt it?