Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Growing up in Taiwan and the West, you take certain things for granted, like having siblings. I had this conversation in China:

Them - I'm going to visit my older sister (姐姐) in Shanghai and hang out with my younger sister (妹妹). Also, my brother (弟弟) just had a baby.

Me - Oh, how many siblings do you have?

Them - [pause] Uh, none.

Me - But you just said sister/brother...

Them - I meant cousins. No one has actual brothers and sisters, unless you're from a rich family and can afford the fine.

I had completely forgotten about the "One Child Policy" which was implemented in 1979. It may have looked good on paper, but has resulted in forced abortions and sterilization in some areas. In the cities, if you have money, you can either pay a fine for additional children or bribe local officials. Also, since we're talking about Chinese people, if you can only have one child, you'd better make sure it's a boy. In some places, the boy/girl ratio is as high as 140:100. It's going to be harder and harder for them to find wives when they grow up. Good thing there are not a lot of white guys in China, unlike UCLA. :)

Another problem is that an entire generation in China has grown up without experiencing the sibling relationship. Almost everyone I know has siblings and I can't imagine growing up without my sister and extended family. Following the policy, the next generation in China won't even have uncles/aunts and cousins.



closetmusician said...

yes, that totally confused me for a while too. everybody would be talking about their brothers & sisters, then i'll ask, "wait, but you're not allowed to have any...", then they'll look at me quizzically and go, "they're my cousins, of course." people say that mainland chinese can be rude, self-centered, and aggressive, i think that probably partly stems from the fact that most are single childs, and have never had to share & fight w/ siblings and learn that the world doesn't revolve around them.

though to the point about male:female ratio, i swear, bay area is so much worse, it must be like 7:3 single men/women. every time i go to beijing it seems like there are just oceans of single women swimming around, i feel like i must've died and woke up in paradise. so i feel like the ratio can be deceiving, at least compared to the bay. obviously the nominal ratio in US is probably ~1:1 since there's no one child policy, but ask any guy and he'll tell you the scene is way better in china than in SF. so ironically i feel like the stats and reality are reversed.

geez, did i just write a whole paragraph on male/female ratio?

totochi said...

Yes. At 1:38am no less. Are you still in the Bay Area or are you in China already? Silicon Valley is just like engineering school so 7:3 is pretty good.

Stephanie said...


OUCH! :) i can't imaging growing up without my brothers and extended family either. i think i'd be the world's HUGEST brat (more so than i am now) if ed and larry didn't put me in my spot now and again.

how long are you staying in china for?

ps: i like your chengdu breakfast ;)

totochi said...

Oops! The [snip] wasn't referring to any sterilization procedure, though it's fits now you mention it. I had an extra paragraph of political commentary on China that I removed in case Chinese government censors were busy.

I'm in China for 1 week each quarter so far. I'll probably be in Chengdu again in late February. The breakfast was a buffet so there were stuff that I didn't recognize which did NOT end up on my plate. It didn't taste all that good though... :(