China’s One Child Policy introduced in 1978 was the country’s official population control policy. After more than thirty years since the One-Child Policy was introduced, people born in the early 1980s are now entering parenthood. In general, the policy serves the original purpose of reducing the population growth rate in China. However, it also causes problems to the younger generation. In particular, children in China are not familiar with the traditional cultures than the children of previous generations.
What Is JiuJiu And GuGu?
Traditionally, the family size of Chinese are large compared to the size of Western families. Children grow up in a household with different relatives. Since there are many uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, grandparents and grandchildren living together, specific terms are developed to differentiate between kinships. Simple English terms such as “uncle” and “aunt”, used to address the siblings of parents, have a lot of variations in Chinese. For example, “uncle”, which can be used to address brothers of both parents in English, have three different terms in Chinese: bobo (伯伯) the older brother of father, shushu (叔叔) the younger brother of father, and jiujiu (舅舅) for the brother of mother. Similarly, the English term “aunt” can be translated into guma (姑妈), gugu (姑姑), yima (姨妈), or xiaoyi (小姨), which means older sister of father, younger sister of father, older sister of mother, and younger sister of mother, respectively. This kind of unique terminology is a traditional culture of the Chinese.
However, most children in China now have parents who are both single children due to the China One Child Policy, and the lack of uncles and aunts has distanced children from these traditional terms. For example, Miss Zhang, a Chinese teacher of an elementary school in Kaifeng (开封), Henan (河南), was asked a question that many other new Chinese parents commonly have encountered. She was born in the 1980’s and both she and her husband are both only children. When she was asked by her four-and-a-half year old daughter: “What is jiujiu and gugu?” she could not answer the question at once.
Drawing from her own experience, Zhang also expresses her observation of the current generation of children. In addition to the unfamiliarity to the terms mentioned above, emotional loneness, vulnerability, and the lack of anti-frustration ability are also common weaknesses for most of her students nowadays.
A human resource officer for a railroad company also informed that his office workers also show the tendency of selecting recent graduates who are not an only child or from a rural area. The reasons are such students are more hardworking, easier to fit in with the work environment of the railroad systems, and more prepared psychologically than an only child.
“Our parent’s generation might still have a biaodi (表弟, the younger male cousin whose father is not brother of one’s father) or tangmei (堂妹, the younger female cousin whose father is brother of one’s father) to help them during difficult time. As for post-80’s and post-90’s (new Chinese terms referencing people born in the 80’s and in 90’s, respectively) like us, we will not even have anyone to talk to if we encounter any kinds of tough situations. What a tragedy” quoted by sungq2007, a Chinese netizen.
Effect On China’s Population
In addition to the problems in education and development of the only child generation, there are also other problems because of the policy. Another problem in China now is the unbalanced male to female ratio. Based on the most recent census, the male-to-female ratio is 120.5:100 within the 100 million population of only child. The figure is seriously out of balanced compared to the male-to-female ratio of 105:100 in western, developed countries. Many experts predict that if effective measures are not implemented soon, problems such as decline of birth rate, imbalance of sex ratio, and aging of society will “crash” into China’s rapid economic development in the near future.
Aging of Chinese society is also the result of the China One Child Policy. For example, in 2009, the population of above 65 years of age accounts for 7.9% of the population of Kaifeng, and a percentage above 7 indicates an aging society. The “aging before wealth” population not only restricts the local economic development, but it also brings the social issue of “elders with support”.
Family support has traditionally been the main form of retirement pension in China. However, due to the “421” family structure (one child with two parents and four grandparents) created by the One Child Policy, this traditional practice is doomed to be unsustainable. For example, an a couple born in the 1980’s needs to support four elders of the family, and their child need to support all six of them after their retirement.
Currently, the population in Beijing is 16.95 million, with an increment of 0.62 to 0.63 million per year. At this rate, the number will reach 18 million very soon, which is the main reason why the government is still holding on to the policy.
However, society has raised its voice to ease the One Child Policy at the same time. Beijing also lowered the bar for a couple to be eligible for a second baby. Now eligible couples include one where both husband and wife are only children, remarried couple with a childless parent, couple with a deceased only child, and couple with a disabled first child.
Right now, Beijing has a policy that restricts eligible couples to have a four year gap between the births of children. But the city is considering canceling such a restriction in the future because there are already eleven provinces and cities that have canceled the policy. Moreover, there is a possibility that a couple where only one of them is the single child will be eligible for a second child in the future.