Welcome to the World Wide Web Home page of Road to East Asia
Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.2, no. 2, January-February, 1997
These problems largely stem from the Chinese preference for sons over daughters. One of the primary reasons is economic. By tradition, sons always stay in the family and support their parents in their old age. By contrast, a married woman is expected to be totally dedicated to her husband's family for they have paid a "bride price" to "purchase" her. Besides, women earn about 50- 70% less than men in the rural area (Croll, pp. 153-54).
The preference of male children is also a Chinese tradition. In a typical Chinese family, a woman plays a very minor role, only as a wife, a son's mother, and a daughter-in-law. A man, on the other hand, carries on the ancestral name and therefore is revered as the family's ancestors are worshipped.
The Chinese preference for male children seemed to have been overlooked by those who introduced the "One Child Policy." After its implementation, "[p]erphas 15 million female babies have "gone missing" (Hilditch, 16-20). Genetic testing, a practice prohibited in some countries, is common in China to determine a baby's gender. If it is going to be a girl, the parents may decide to abort the fetus so that they may have a son in the next attempt.
The rate of abandoning female babies to orphanages and elsewhere has also increased (Hilditch,16-20). A British documentary team once studied some state-run orphanages and came up with startling results. At an orphanage in the Guangxi province, for example, the workers admitted that 90% of the 50-60 girls who arrived there monthly died. Prior to their death, they had been kept in "the Dying Rooms," where they were starved, neglected, and left to lie in their own urine-soaked clothes. (Hilditch, 16-20).
As a result of the "One Child policy," there is a high ratio of boys to girls in China today. In order to redress the negative consequences, Beijing must consider remedial measures. The government, for example, can improve the social safety net for the elderly so that they do not have to depend on sons for financial support. (Croll, pp. 158-9). As well, if men and women enjoy equal rights and are paid equitably, a family may be less keen on having a son. Through education, we hope one day parents will together decide whether a child should carry on the paternal or maternal name. Should all these policies be implemented, the Chinese people would celebrate the birth of a baby regardless of its gender.
Croll, Elisabeth, Delia Davin and Penny Kane. China's One-Child Family Policy. Hong Kong: The Macmillan Press, 1985.
Hilditch, Tom. "The Dying Rooms." Hong Kong Sunday Post Magazine, 25 June, 1995, pp. 16-20.
Illustration by Megan Donnelly