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Lesson One: Abandoned Baby
Reading LevelTitle Description
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This 15-minute film provides a grounding in understanding how some families in China responded to the one-child policy – and describes how this policy was enforced on the local level.
A good backgrounder for students at all levels.
Invisible lives: A legacy of China's family planning rulesThis 15-minute film "tells three personal stories: Yang Zhizhu has a second child and campaigns against the family planning rules; Li Xue, 23, has spent her entire life unregistered because she is a second child; Liu Chunyan is a single mother with a daughter born outside marriage." Their stories provide an intimate portrait of three people who have struggled with the restrictive rules.
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Before delving into specific topic areas, below, explore this collection of articles about the past and future of China's one-child policy.High-school level middle school students, high school and college level.Sinica backgrounder: The past and future of China’s one-child policy"The first day of 2016 was the official beginning of a relaxation of that policy: All married couples are now allowed to have two children. But the social, economic and psychological effects of the old rule will be felt for generations to come. It’s uncertain whether the adjustments will have the intended impact on what some observers call a demographic time bomb: the end of China’s staggering economic growth due to an aging population and the lack of people of working age who can support them."
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Listen to this fascinating discussion about the consequences of the one-child policy as China transitions to its two-child policy.
Middle school and high school.
Beijing calls for baby boomThis video discussion takes place 9 months after the government moved to a two-child policy. "Far fewer parents have applied to have a second child than what officials say is needed to keep China going. That is creating a problem in a country with an aging population. There are more than one billion people living in China, and roughly 220 million of them are over the age of 60. So, Beijing is trying to encourage a baby boom to deal with a shrinking workforce. But is this too little, too late? The previous policy created a massive gender imbalance. With 33 million more men than women, the prospect of Chinese men finding a mate does not look promising."
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This 42-minute video explores the changing population in China's orphanages. The children now being abandoned are overwhelmingly disabled; gender is not as large of a factor as it was in the earlier times of China's one-child policy.
Essential resource for all students
China's New UnwantedIn this news video, Channel Asia examines the changes taking place in "orphanages that were once filled with unwanted baby girls. Today, it's disabled children. In a country where social services remain patchy at best, especially in the rural areas, parents end up shouldering the cost of medical care. Sometimes, abandonment seems the easier option. Among these orphans, only a lucky few will find new homes."
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Touching Home in China created its own "From Mao to Now" timeline to show the one-child policy in the historical context of other birth planning policies since modern-day China's founding in 1949.
Essential resource for all students
From Mao to Now: Timeline of China's One Child PolicyTouching Home in China developed this timeline, based on primary source material to which links are provided as part of this timeline. We created this timeline so that students can explore China's one-child policy in the broader context of the People's Republic of China's birth planning and population policies since its founding in 1949.
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Many assumptions are made about why and how China implemented its one-child policy. In this paper, scholars examine four of the prevailing myths and explain why each is incorrect.High school and university level students.Challenging Myths About China's One-Child Policy Download a pdf version from The China Journal to discover how academics challenge four prevailing myths about China's one-child policy. Guidance they provide about political and economic considerations help to explain, in part, why China embarked on and sustained the one-child policy for nearly four decades.
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Group A: China's One – Child Policy and Gender Imbalance
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This Bloomberg story presents a solid overview of China's two-child policy by explaining why it was implemented and the effect it is having on families and women workers, in particular.Middle School and AboveChina’s Two-Child PolicyHere's the lengthy subhead for this story, a good summation: "Please have another baby. That’s China new message for couples after decades of limiting families to just one child. Why the turnabout? China’s aging. In a little more than 10 years, one-quarter of the world’s most populous country will be 60 or older. This means there won’t be enough workers in the labor force, threatening economic growth, and there may not be enough able-bodied people to take care of all those seniors. So last year, China changed its rules to allow all families to have two children. Trouble is, many couples aren’t convinced that two are better than one."
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Scholars are reopening discussion about China's gender imbalance, as their demographic research shows that fewer girls might be "missing" from China's overall population than previously thought. Higher levels of high school and college."China's 'missing girls' theory likely far overblown, study shows")"People think 30 million girls are missing from the population. That's the population of California, and they think they're just gone," said John Kennedy, a KU associate professor of political science. "Most people are using a demographic explanation to say that abortion or infanticide are the reasons they don't show up in the census, and that they don't exist. But we find there is a political explanation. ... Kennedy and co-author Shi Yaojiang, of Shaanxi Normal University in China, have analyzed statistics and found that a combination of late registration and unreported births explain a larger portion of the 'missing girls than previously reported in Chinese sex-ratio-at-birth statistics. Their findings are published this month in the journal China Quarterly."
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This story explains the significance of this new research that is revealing the presence of many girls in China's population that until now were thought to be "missing."Middle School and AboveMany of China’s ‘missing girls’ are likely hiding"An oft-cited statistic says that China’s one-child policy has resulted in anywhere from 30 million to 60 million 'missing girls.' A new study finds that those numbers are likely overblown and that a large number of those girls isn’t missing at all—it was more of an administrative story that had to do with the local registration of births in China. 'People think 30 million girls are missing from the population. That’s the population of California, and they think they’re just gone,' says John Kennedy, associate professor of political science at the University of Kansas. 'Most people are using a demographic explanation to say that abortion or infanticide are the reasons they don’t show up in the census and that they don’t exist. But we find there is a political explanation.'"
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This personal essay describes the experience of being a "hidden daughter" in China.Middle School and AboveA Letter to a Once “Hidden” Child — That’s MeA second daughter who was hidden by her Chinese family so her parents could give birth to a son is now a graduate student in the United States. This The second daughter in a family restricted to having two children – if the first one is a daughter – was hidden by her family so her parents could give birth to a son. This "hidden daughter" was a graduate student in the United States when she wrote this essay as a letter to herself, a "once 'hidden child." In her essay, she's what her life was like growing up apart from her birth family and how she feels about this experience today. She shares this experience with millions of "hidden children" in China."once 'hidden child" writes herself a letter describing what has happened to her along the way.
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An excellent video story brings us inside the lives of two daughters given up by their families in China who are seeking a reunion with their birth families.Middle School and AboveChina's Lost and Found DaughtersThis video story focuses on the efforts of "Li Yongguo, a civil servant in eastern China, who is on a mission to reunite families forced apart by China's one-child policy. He holds events for parents and children separated after the mass population control scheme began in the late 1970s, collecting DNA samples to match them. Cai Fengxia is desperate to meet the parents who gave her away to a foster home in 1979. After searching for 12 years, she turns to Li Yongguo in a final attempt to find them. Another woman, Li Junfen, has already been matched with her birth family but she's reluctant to meet them. With news that her biological father is extremely sick, Li Yongguo tries to persuade her to seize the opportunity before it's too late."
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Middle School and Above
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A Short Pictorial History of China’s One-Child Policy Propaganda Like other official policies, Chinese leaders promoted their population policies on signs and billboards. This picture story shows the changes in messages through the decades. Even before the one-child policy went into effect in 1980, the Chinese people were being told that having fewer children was their national duty to make China a better place.
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China keeps finding millions of people who never officially existedWith hukuo reform and the introduction of the two-child policy, children who were thought to be missing from the population are turning up in census counts; this leads scholars to suggest that there is less of a gap between the number of men and the number of women than was thought earlier.
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How quickly can China come back from its one-child policy?Here's a CNN video that explains the challenges China confronts due to its long-term One Child Policy: "In October 2015, China decided to overturn its decades-old one-child policy and allow couples across the country to have two children. ... Almost a year after the decision, the study warns that the Chinese government's goal of a population increase may take more than two decades to arrive. 'It's something we've all been waiting for, for a long time,' says Therese Hesketh, professor of global health at University College London, who led the research. 'But the effects are only going to come through in the adult population.' In other words, at least 20 years away."
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The chart that shows China’s baby-making frenzy since it lifted its one-child policyIn January 2016, China's new two-child policy went into effect. Now this story shows what happens when families that had been told for several decades that they could have only one child are allowed to have a second child. This story's graph shows what happened. But the question remains about whether this birth rate can be sustained, as the Chinese government wants to happen.
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One Child Policy: Facts and Details An historical overview and informational resource with a lot of links to various aspects of China's one-child policy, compiled by educator Jeff Hays.
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China's Gender Imbalance Likely to DeclineAs Chinese leaders were starting to make some changes to the one-child policy, the All-China Women's Federation published this story detailing recent year's male-heavy sex ratios at birth.
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Chinese City Urges People To 'Appreciate The Significance Of Having Two Children'Now government officials are pressuring families to have two children: "The call for family-planning-as-patriotic-act is reminiscent of government communication about the old one-child policy, in that it focuses on economic ramifications. Previous restrictions barring most families from having more than one child were justified in economic terms, warning that the country would not be able to feed all its people. ... The argument for the shift to a two-child policy has been similarly economic, focusing on the country's labor shortage and aging population. And the message to parents has flipped: to serve your country, procreate more, not less." For a later took at what a news reporter calls China's Demographic Timebomb, go to this story at https://bloom.bg/29bLVz6
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A New Baby Boom Is Happening in China’s Smaller CitiesWhile demographers in China question whether China waited too long to switch to a two-child policy, other observers say that smaller cities in China don't have the facilities or professionals needed to care for the additional babies being born under the two-child policy.
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China Mulls Incentives to Entice Parents to Have Second ChildWhen China's National People's Congress met in Beijing in March 2017, the question of how to get couples to have a second child received lots of attention – as delegates searched for a solution. "A 2015 nationwide study by National Health and Family Planning Commission found that among women in their prime childbearing years of 15 to 49 years old, three-quarters of them said they do not want a second child due to financial constraints. More than 60% cited a lack of energy and support as the reason for not having a second child. Li Wei, a member of the Standing Committee of China’s top government advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), proposed giving couples a reward equivalent to 10% of the average family income if they are willing to have a second child."
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China Fining Parents for Second Kid Born Before One-Child Policy ScrappedFamilies that had a second child before the one-child policy was changed are still being fined for doing so, even though there is now a two-child policy in China. "In October 2015, the Communist Party of China’s 18th Central Committee decided to abolish the country’s longstanding one-child policy and roll out a universal two-child policy, which officially took effect on Jan. 1, 2016. As for second children born one or two years earlier, the central government has told local governments to judge 'for themselves' whether to levy fines and if so, how much they should be. 'In a case where the government has already made the decision to fine, then it should collect the fine. But if the decision hasn’t been made yet, the local government can judge by itself,' said Yang Wenzhuang, a deputy director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission."
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From Mao to Now: Timeline of China's One Child PolicyTouching Home in China developed this timeline (based on primary source material) so students can explore China's one-child policy in the broader context of the People's Republic of China's population policies since its founding in 1949.
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High School and Above
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The True History of China's Disastrous One Child PolicyThe subtitle of Harvard Professor Martin King Whyte's Foreign Affairs article from November 2015, just after China's government decided to change the one-child policy to a two-child policy, reads: "Reform Is Too Little, Too Late." In his article, Whyte reminds of us of why China established its population policies and assesses their lasting consequences.
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Mei Fong on the one-child policy, its consequences and what’s next for China’s demographicsIn this podcast, Mei Fong, the author of "One Child" talks about the one-child policy’s history, examining its effectiveness and the consequences of nearly four decades of the government mandating and monitoring the size of families in China. Mei reveals "heartbreaking encounters she had with parents who lost their only child in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and their subsequent rush to have their vasectomies and sterilizations reversed. She provides insight into the people who designed the policy (rocket scientists — literally, rocket scientists!), those who enforced the rules, what lies ahead with the relaxation in the policy, the 30 million unfortunate bachelors who can’t find a mate, and the fate of grandparents who have only one descendant in a culture that used to regard a large family as the ultimate happiness."
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The worldwide war on baby girlsThis story in The Economist places China's sex ratio in a global context while also detailing the gender-related consequences particular to China.
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Baby girl wrapped in plastic sent by courier to China orphanageIt has been rare for stories about abandoned babies to appear in China's news outlets. Only when some aspect of the story is "sensational" or different, as in this story, do reporters tell stories about children being abandoned. What you will find when you read this story is that there is no context given to overall circumstances involving abandoned children; mostly this is due to fear of censorship by government authorities. While China's birth quota policies often force families to give up their children, this isn't a story the government wants to see in newspapers.
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China Should Scrap all Family Planning RulesCaixin, an independent news organization in China, published this opinion piece calling for government leaders to come up with policies to encourage births "before it is too late."
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China unveils two-child policyThis CNN story – video and text – explores China's decision to institute the two-child policy, which it introduced in January 2015.
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How likely are Chinese to have more kids, now it’s legal?In this PRI radio interview, China correspondent Mary Kay Magistad assesses the likelihood of Chinese families having more than one child now that the one-child policy has been lifted. As she observes, "at this point in China’s economic development, most families are probably only going to have one or two kids. In fact, that squares with what demographers are finding throughout China, not just in the cities and not just among the affluent, but also among the aspiring rural population. They want their kids to go to good schools. They want them to do better than they’ve done.”
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Two is too much trouble': will China's parents rush to have more children? In this Guardian newspaper story, some experts predict that switching to a two-child policy will "do almost nothing to boost China’s low fertility rate, which experts put at between 1.2 and 1.5 children per woman."
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How China is rolling out the red carpet for couples who have more than one childChinese leaders are offering families benefits as a way to encourage them to have more than one child, according to this story in The Conversation. This story emphasizes how the government's approach to talking about family planning is changing, too, from one of control to support and encouragement.
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Chinese City Urges People To 'Appreciate The Significance Of Having Two Children'Now government officials are pressuring families to have two children: "The call for family-planning-as-patriotic-act is reminiscent of government communication about the old one-child policy, in that it focuses on economic ramifications. Previous restrictions barring most families from having more than one child were justified in economic terms, warning that the country would not be able to feed all its people. ... The argument for the shift to a two-child policy has been similarly economic, focusing on the country's labor shortage and aging population. And the message to parents has flipped: to serve your country, procreate more, not less."
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China Should Allow Three or More Children: Top DemographerIn February 2017, one of China's leading demographers is urging the government to increase the number of children that a family can have to three – acknowledging that there will be many couples who will not have a second child. So those families who want to have a third child ought to be able to do so, he argues. "'Now the policy allows you to have a second child, but many people, at least 50 percent of them, do not want the second child,' said Cai Fang, a former head of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at CASS. 'Population policy, which encouraged people to give birth more, should be a policy package including allowing people to have a second and third or even more babies. If the total fertility rate can increase, the newborn will be the labor force in 20 years.'"
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How Chinese Art Explores its one-child policyThe BBC's article by journalist Clarissa Sebag Montefiore describes artist Prune Nourry’s "Terracotta Daughters," which is featured the Abandoned Baby story's gallery called "Lonely Childhoods and Missing Girls." This article will be especially helpful to students in thinking about their Reflection and Action project. Here is a link to a short trailer for the film made about Nourry's "Terracotta Daughters." https://vimeo.com/79253556
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In South Korea, parents are increasingly saying, 'we hope for a girl'Listen to and read this story done by PRI's The World about how parental views are shifting about the gender of child they want to raise. As in many Asian countries, sons were prized; now South Koreans are showing a preference for daughters, and this same trend came also be seen among Chinese couples who live in that country's major cities: "In South Korea, there’s a new saying: 'To have two daughters wins you a gold medal.' But this wasn’t the case a single generation ago, when couples would go to great lengths to conceive a son. A country’s reverence for boys has turned into a slight preference for girls."
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The plight of China’s family plannersTo enforce its one-child policy, China created a huge bureaucracy of family-planning (birth planning) cadres whose job it was to be sure that rules and regulations were followed, and if they weren't to discipline those couples. With the one-child policy transformed to a two-child policy, and fewer couples wanting to have children, the roles played by these hundreds of thousands of government employees are diminishing. The question is what will happen to them as their duties are phased out.
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University Level
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Have China’s Missing Girls Actually Been There All Along?Two scholars examine and criticize recent research findings related to speculation about "missing" girls in China. "The first, by Ryan Schacht, Douglas Tharp, and Ken R. Smith in Human Nature, suggests that crime is not elevated in the context of high sex ratios. ... The second, an article by Yaojiang Shi and John James Kennedy in the Cambridge journal, China Quarterly, claims that three quarters of China’s “missing girls” were simply never registered and thus are not missing at all." The China Quaterly article can be read at http://bit.ly/28XdBYo
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Challenging Myths About China's One-Child PolicyIn this journal article, three scholars of China's one-child policy challenge some common beliefs about this policy: "that Mao Zedong consistently opposed efforts to limit China’s population growth; that consequently China’s population continued to grow rapidly until after his death; that the launching of the one-child policy in 1980 led to a dramatic decline in China’s fertility rate; and that the imposition of the policy prevented 400 million births. Evidence is presented contradicting each of these claims. Mao Zedong at times forcefully advocated strict limits on births and presided over a major switch to coercive birth planning after 1970; as much as three-quarters of the decline in fertility since 1970 occurred before the launching of the one-child policy; fertility levels fluctuated in China after the policy was launched; and most of the further decline in fertility since 1980 can be attributed to economic development, not coercive enforcement of birth limits."
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Population, Policy and Politics: How Will History Judge China's One-Child Policy?University-level students: In Population and Development Review, scholars examine China'a adoption of the one-child policy and trace the reasons why successive leaders kept it in place so long despite undesired consequences.
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The CCP's Evolving Role in Chinese BedroomsSharing an insightful dive into the history of how China's government policies and practices have influenced sexual relations and the lives of women – starting with Mao's Cultural Revolution. This story provides a counter-narrative to the view of Mao's era as being one of sexual repression. 'Whether intentional or not, past and present domestic government policies have always played a significant role in promoting an expected model of sex and sexuality." The one-child policy dramatically altered the lives of Chinese women by severing the historical link between sex and procreation. ... Chinese women are now spending less time childrearing and more time in full-time employment and other activities outside of the home. "The current limitation placed on sex for the purpose of procreation has also encouraged the expansion of public discourse about marital sex for pleasure and eroded physical restrictions on non-marital sexual relations. It has also meant that parents have had to accept what are seen as ‘non-traditional’ sexual and lifestyle choices of their only child."
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Review of Outsourced ChildrenIn "Outsourced Children," sociologist Leslie K. Wang aims to reconceptualize the unidirectional perspective that views adoption as a one-way migration of children from poor countries into richer ones. Rather Wang emphasizes the transnational exchange that involves the importation of Western actors, resources, and practices into Chinese orphanages to care for abandoned youth as well as the exportation of Chinese children into Western homes via adoption. The main focus of Wang’s book, however, is the former. One of Wang’s major contributions to the scholarly literature is her concept of “outsourced intimacy,” which she defines as 'the process by which the Chinese state has outsourced the care of locally devalued children to Westerners who, using their own resources, remake them into global citizens' (p. 4). Between 2005 and 2014, Wang visited nine different Chinese state-run orphanages across the country, interviewed staff members at adoption-related nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and Western orphan relief organizations, and mined archives on the topics of state modernization and the changing child welfare regime. The most notable component of her methodology is her ethnographic fieldwork in Beijing that took place in 2006 and 2007 in two Chinese state-run orphanages that collaborated with Western NGOs. As a volunteer with the faith-based Tomorrow’s Children, Wang spent several months at the Haifeng Children’s Welfare Institute (CWI). Tomorrow’s Children managed a" medical facility for the care of severely ill and disabled infants at this CWI. Wang also served as a volunteer for the organization Helping Hands, a grassroots group of Western expatriate wives who assisted the Yongping Orphanage, a small state institution that cared for about forty special needs youth.
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China’s unfinished gender revolutionThis EastAsia Forum article, authored by Yang Yao and Wuyue You of Peking University, speaks to the historic (1950-1980) correlation in China between greater involvement by women in the Communist Party and a decrease in the nation's gender imbalance. As the authors write: "... increasing female party membership can explain 17 per cent of the decline in gender imbalance across the population between 1950 and 1975." Discover how a changes in China's economy and political participation by women contribute to its unfinished "gender revolution."
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Group B-Impact on Girls' and Women's Lives
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A member of China's one-child policy generation writes an essay about how growing up as only children in a society in which family values were changing influenced the character and temperment of young adults.Likely best for high school and above.China’s ‘Giant Infants’Here is an excerpt from this essay: "Many of my peers, finding themselves overwhelmed by the trials of adulthood, have begun to reflect critically on how middle-class kids are raised in urban China. Perhaps what were considered markers of my generation’s privilege — intensive parenting, rigorous education and consumerist culture — are in fact our bane, making us self-centered and emotionally isolated, struggling to find independence and fulfillment in a fast-changing society." The author cites Wu Zhihong, a psychiatrist and author of a best-selling book called “A Country of Giant Infants” who lists symptoms that call to mind a grown-up “little emperor.” In Mr. Wu’s view, social problems from littering in public places to codependency in romantic relationships have their roots in China’s family-centered culture and its new levels of oppression that stunt individual psychological growth." As this essayist writes, "Chinese people have 'giant infant' syndrome."
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For almost two decades, Vanessa Fong has followed a contingent of young people who are growing up as only children in China due to the one-child policy. This story about her research offers a terrific overview of her evolving findings from her on-going study, especially about the changes in girls' lives.Likely best for high school and college.What’s life been like for the only children born under China’s one-child policy? Anthropology professor Vanessa Fong ’96 knows the answers, and they’re revelatory.Vanessa Fong – author of "Only Hope: Coming of Age Under China’s One-Child Policy – is two decades into a longitudinal study of the first children born under China’s one-child policy, and "her findings are so remarkable, so counter-intuitive, that she has repeatedly surprised herself, her field and the world. "What she has learned has documented the changing perception of daughters in China. "In 1999, Fong first surveyed 2,273 students from two high schools and one junior high in Dalian. She has returned ever since to re-survey, observe and interview many as they brave each life stage. The result is a rare portrait of the attitudes and experiences of an unprecedented generation of brother-less and sister-less singletons—the most intentionally created generation in human history."
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Middle School and Above
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How the one-child policy has improved women's status in China "Many in China refer to themselves as ‘the last generation of singleton daughters.’ They suggest that with China’s new family planning policies, there will always be couples having just one son, but if they have one daughter they will try hard to have a second child that is male: 'This was the last era of the only daughters – every era is that of the only sons.' During the one-child policy “slogans propagated that daughters could also carry the honor of the family line, and that girls and boys were equally important for the future of China.” A propoganda sign in this tory is roughly translated as saying: 'It is all the same whether you give birth to a boy or give birth to a girl” (生男生女都一样) and 'Daughters also carry on the family line' (女儿也是传后人)
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China’s one-child policy: I am not alone at being alone"Before my arrival, my grandmother craved another grandson, and I was apparently her last chance. She addressed me in embryo as 'he' or 'my dear boy,' hoping that it would make a difference. When my father informed her of the birth of a new granddaughter, she refused to believe the truth. She came to see me, and the first thing she did was to unwrap the blanket and check my private parts. ... The one-child policy continued to influence me, but in other hidden and ongoing ways. ... The one-child policy forces my parents to gamble everything on me. They have no choice, and neither do I. They invested in me without my consent, and they required returns in the same way. I could hardly follow my heart. I always feel unsafe: I’m afraid of not being excellent, of falling behind, of shaming my parents, of feeling guilty for not giving back what they have devoted to me—my life has become a huge stage where I perform day and night, endlessly. The debt under the one-child policy is too large for me as an individual to pay off. Therefore, I sometimes misbehave."
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China's One-Child DaughtersIn this essay, the creator of Touching Home in China describes how China's one-child policy has led to only-child daughters experiencing very different trajectories than past generations of girls growing up in rural China.
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As China’s One-Child Policy Relaxes, Girl Children No Longer StigmatizedThis story in The Daily Beast invites observers of China's one-child policy to explain why the value of women in China has actually increased as a consequence of its one-child policy.
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Just married at 13: Inside the child marriages that are on the rise in rural China after nation abandons one-child rulePhotographer Muyi Xiao documented cases of southern China's teen brides and grooms who still live in their rural hometowns. Photos and words tell their stories.
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High School and Above
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China's one-child policy led to my adoption - and a more privileged lifeIn a Washington Post's Opinion section, Ricki Mudd wrties of being adopted as an older child after her birth family tried to "hide" her with another family. She also chronicles her trip back to China to see her birth parents, as well as telling about her younger brother's decision to join her in America.
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A ‘Lost’ Daughter Speaks, and All of China ListensJenna Cook, an adoptee from China, returned to China when she was 20 years old and searched from her birth parents. She didn't find them, but she discovered the pain felt by so many birth parents who came forward to try to claim her as the baby they'd abandoned – 50 Chinese families in all. Cook writes this essay to tell about her search but also to express the enormous pain she'd absorbed from these many birth parents who came forward thinking she was their child.
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The Truth About China’s Missing DaughtersIn her review of Kay Ann Johnson's book, "China's Hidden Children," Kathryn Joyce shows how the author, in interviewing many Chinese families who relinquished children, debunks the idea that families only wanted sons. "... for years before and even during the one-child policy, many parents who only had sons adopted daughters in order to thus 'complete' their families. And where daughters were given up, among the families Johnson met, it was never casual, but almost always an agonized decision that, in the context of government repression, could hardly be called a choice. It wasn’t the people, in other words, so much as the policy."
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A Nation’s Buried PainIn an essay she wrote about her book, "China’s Hidden Children: Adoption, Abandonment and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy," Kay Johnson explains how and why she tells these stories of "the buried pain of Chinese birth parents who lost children in the era of the harsh population control policies known generically as the One-Child Policy. Working with Chinese colleagues, these stories were collected over a period of nearly 20 years, listening to the accounts of Chinese people who relinquished, adopted and variously hid “out-of-plan” or over quota children in the face of a relentless policy aimed at restricting births at almost any cost."
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A Letter to a Once “Hidden” Child — That’s MeSimeng Dai, one of China's "hidden daughters" during the one-child policy, begins the story of her life with these words: "As much as I love my older sister, I am jealous of her. Not because she’s almost four inches taller than I am, or that she has a great sense of humor. I’m jealous because my parents raised her and they didn’t raise me. I was their second daughter and so they hid me to try again to have a son. They succeeded. I became my family’s 'hidden daughter,' known in China as being a 'black child.' For a long time, I didn’t know this happened to millions of other girls. When I was young, all I knew was that I felt very much alone."
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China’s Hidden ChildrenThis brief article in The Diplomat explains well why it is important for a child in China to be given a hukuo (household registraion) at birth and describe the reasons why it's extremely difficult for some families to make this happen for their child.
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Gender and Family in Contemporary ChinaWith insight into cultural traditions in China, this 9-page report by the Population Studies Center offers a good overview on recent changes in gender relations and family structures.
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China's One-Child MothersA Chinese daughter, writing in Foreign Affairs, describes the emotional turmoil the one-child policy brought into mothers' lives – and how its legacy endures in their generation. "Even today, when I ask my mother and other women from her generation how they regard the one-child policy given that having a second child is now legal, they respond with numb obedience: any policies that the country has enacted are right, they say. For my generation, or at least for me and my female friends, the two-child policy does not really give us reason to celebrate. It simply brings us a little closer to what should have always been our right."
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Jiangsu’s Abandoned Girls and now Women search for birth parents who left them on the street after family planning crackdown. This sory is about a 38-year old Chinese woman who was abandoned as a baby and then adopted by a Chinese mother. in China After her mother died, using a DNA database, she was reunited with her birth family (mother, father and two sisters.) "Knowing she had been abandoned on the sidewalk wasn’t enough for Lin Chunhong. She had so many more questions: Where did I come from? What do my birth parents look like? Do I have siblings? After Sun [who had adopted and raised her] passed away, Lin began to search for her birth parents." A photo essay at the end of her story features several other women who were abandoned when they were very young and grew up in adoptive families in China. Jiangsu is the province where the girls in Touching Home in China live.
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China's Worst Policy Mistake?In this New York Book Review essay, Nicholas Kristof writes about the book "China's Hidden Children" which is about girls who were raised by someone other than their birth families so that their own family could have a son. This circumstance happened frequently during the one-child policy, but has rarely been written or spoken about in China or in the West.
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A Letter of Frustration and Gratitude on the end of China's One-Child PolicyA 25-year-old adoptee from China, writing in the Huffington Post, expresses how she feels in hearing the news that China is ending its one-child policy. This policy likely led to her abandonment and international adoption.
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What future for women in Chinese higher education?In Times Higher Education, reporter David Matthews describes how China's one-child policy led to more young women enrolling in universities in China, which, in turn, is leading to societal changes in China. He raises the question of whether China's new two-child policy will reverse these gains for girls.
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The Real Source of China's Trafficking ProblemSoon after the U.S. State Department labeled China as one of the worst human rights offenders with the human trafficking happening there, Bloomberg published this analysis of the factors that lead to this designation. Among them is China's one-child policy and the lopsided gender ratio that resulted: "Two factors account for much of China's trafficking problems. Most importantly, the country’s notorious and now-defunct 'one-child policy' long combined with a cultural preference for sons to slow China's population growth and skew its gender ratio. In the countryside, where the bias in favor of males is strongest, there are reports of towns that feature 150 boys for every 100 girls (the normal gender ratio is 106 boys to 103 girls). Over time, this trend has produced China's notorious 'bachelor villages' -- rural hamlets that are home to lots of marriageable men but few women. Meanwhile, employers in China's manufacturing centers face shortages of workers and rising wages as China's working-age population shrinks."
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Sold: Brides for Sale in ChinaRadio Free Asia's short annimated video illuminates one woman's experience of human trafficing, sexual exploitation and violence after being sold as a bride in China
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A Cambodian Bride in Small-Town ChinaThis story published by Sixth Tone describes the contented life of a Cambodian woman who was "sold" as a bride for an older, rural Chinese man who could not find a woman to marry in his town. She tells why she decided to leave her two children behind in Cambodia, marry a Chinese man, and raise the child they had together.
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University and Above
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For almost two decades, Vanessa Fong has followed a contingent of young people who are growing up as only children in China due to the one-child policy. This story about her research offers a terrific overview of her evolving findings from her on-going study, especially about the changes in girls' lives.Likely best for high school and college.What’s life been like for the only children born under China’s one-child policy? Anthropology professor Vanessa Fong ’96 knows the answers, and they’re revelatory.Vanessa Fong – author of "Only Hope: Coming of Age Under China’s One-Child Policy – is two decades into a longitudinal study of the first children born under China’s one-child policy, and "her findings are so remarkable, so counter-intuitive, that she has repeatedly surprised herself, her field and the world. "What she has learned has documented the changing perception of daughters in China. "In 1999, Fong first surveyed 2,273 students from two high schools and one junior high in Dalian. She has returned ever since to re-survey, observe and interview many as they brave each life stage. The result is a rare portrait of the attitudes and experiences of an unprecedented generation of brother-less and sister-less singletons—the most intentionally created generation in human history."
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China's One-Child MothersIn this Foreign Affairs story, a Chinese daughter, born during the country's one-child policy, writes about the experiences her mother's generation had with the policy: "Even today, when I ask my mother and other women from her generation how they regard the one-child policy given that having a second child is now legal, they respond with numb obedience: any policies that the country has enacted are right, they say. For my generation, or at least for me and my female friends, the two-child policy does not really give us reason to celebrate. It simply brings us a little closer to what should have always been our right.
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Book Review: Birth Mothers in South Korea
While this book, written by an adoptee from South Korea, addresses that country's legacy of intercountry adoption, much of what she writes about relates to what we are know about experiences and feelings of biological mothers in China, such as in Kay Johnson's book, "China's Hidden Children." (Read the essay "A Nation's Buried Pain" by Kay Johnson, in the resources for High School and Above.) "Intercountry adoption cannot be undertaken without acknowledging the lifelong impacts on our mothers who have been separated from us, their child. Kim challenges everyone to recognise the losses our mothers suffered and the processes and means by which their lives are rendered invisible and devalued. This book asks us to be engaged and affected by what has happened in the name of economic development."
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Jobs and Kids: Female Employment and Fertility in ChinaThis study by scholars evaluates how female employment affects fertility in China with a focus on the one-child era, a time of steep economic growth. "If employment reduces fertility, encouraging female employment could be an alternative tool for limiting population growth in China," the scholars suggest. Their primary finding is that "off-farm employment reduces fertility for Chinese women." Further, the implications of their findings extend to recognizing there might not be a need for China's strict birth policies: "Encouraging greater rates of off-farm employment for women could substantially reduce fertility without requiring any of the punishments and penalties for childbearing that have earned China so much criticism. Further improvements in women’s education would complement pro-employment policies by increasing the productivity of employment and multiplying its fertility-reducing effects."
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The Missing Girls of ChinaDownload this Cumberland Law Review article, "The Missing Girls of China: Population, Policy, Culture, Gender, Abortion, Abandonment, and Adoption in East-Asian Perspective," which explains why girls are "missing" in China. Read pages 2-22 for overview explanations, then pick up on page 46 to place China's adoption program in the broader East Asian context and learn about the 2005 Hunan baby trafficking scandal that resulted in an effort to stem the trafficking of "healthy baby girls" to orphanages. The findings of this study need to be seen in the context of later demographic research (see 2016 journal article below, China's "missing girls" theory likely far overblown, study shows) that challenges this articles findings.
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China's 'missing girls' theory likely far overblown, study showsRecent demographic research about estimate of "missing girls" in China during the one-child policy reveals that many fewer girls are "missing" from the population that previously believed. "[John] Kennedy and co-author Shi Yaojiang, of Shaanxi Normal University in China, have analyzed statistics and found that a combination of late registration and unreported births explain a larger portion of the "missing girls" than previously reported in Chinese sex-ratio-at-birth statistics. ... The researchers believe local government officials informally worked with farmers and acknowledged that they couldn't fully enforce the one-child policy. Instead they made tact agreements in allowing families to have extra children in exchange for social stability in their communities. The cadres, or local governments, would then under-report "out of plan" births that ultimately influenced the national population statistics." Their findings are published in the December 2016 journal China Quarterly.
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Love in a time of Cultural RevolutionThis brief article by a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford China Centre addresses a time in China's history when government policies and programs orhcestrated the marriages of its younger citizens. These words speak to this curriculum's Big Idea of examining the consequences when government intersects with families’ lives. After describing what happened to marriages, the author concludes by advising that "the State should also refrain from intervening too much in the economic life, especially in the personal economic life, lest it otherwise risk putting both the government and, most importantly, the individuals affected by its policies in a predicament with far reaching consequences."
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The impact of women’s education, workforce experience, and the One Child Policy on fertility in China: a census study in Guangdong, ChinaFor those students who are interested in exploring how social science researchers assess the interwoven impact of various factors on the fertility rate among women in China, this October 2016 study offers a good example. This study, conducted by Chinese scholars in Guangdong Province, aimed to analyze how three factors – women’s education, workforce experience, and birth control policy – jointly influenced the timing of births and affected women at different stages of their reproductive lives.
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The Effects of China's One-Child Policy"Significance for Chinese Women" is the subhead on this article, and as the author notes in her introduction: Not much scholarship has focused on the benefits of China's One-Child Policy, especially for women. Since this policy's implementation. China has experienced changes in filial piety and patrilineality. In a land where sons have been highly cherished for thousands of years singleton daughters are now experiencing greater parental investment and consequently greater gender equality within their society. In a country that has been traditionally dominated by males, China's One-Child policy has indirectly benefited the role of women in society."


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Group C-Care of the Elderly
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A good primer story about how China's one-child policy has upended centuries of cultural traditions and practices when it comes to children caring for elderly parents.All reading levelsHow the One-Child Policy Heightens China’s Aging CrisisThe care of China's and elders is challenging now, and sad news is that it's going to only get worse due to the country's one-child policy. "China doesn’t have nearly enough nursing homes to handle demand, and attempts to open new facilities have encountered all sorts of obstacles, from uncooperative authorities to superstitious neighbors. As a result, many only children will have to shoulder the burden by themselves when the current generation of elderly become dependent on them for care. Daughters may feel the effects even more heavily than sons: A recent study showed that Chinese women taken on more than twice as much unpaid care work than their husbands."
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The outlines of the elder care crisis in China are in place: one child now often must assume the filial responsibilities for parents and two sets of grandparents. Known as the 4-2-1 family, it's a situation that China has never confronted before. This story provides a good overview of what lies ahead.All reading levelsChina Faces Daunting Challenges as Senior Care Comes of Age In a cultural tradition of elder care being done by family members – eldest son assumes financial responsibility, his wife the caregiving – China's one child policy has created a problem that everyone knows is coming but nobody seems to know what to do about it. Lots of folks are trying to come with solutions. And "complicating efforts to house seniors is the fact that many elderly in China suffer from poor health. The National Committee on Aging said China was home to more than 40.6 million disabled or partly disabled senior citizens in 2016, accounting for 18.3% of the elderly population. Eye disease, malignant tumors and cardiovascular disease are common."
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Middle School and Above
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How the elderly are treated around the worldThis story offers a contrast to China's elder care by offering glimpses of some other countries and cultures – Korea, Japan, the Unites States and United Kingdom, France, and the Mediterranean/Latin America cultures.
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Aging China Considers Incentives To Boost Child Birth -- Too Little, Too Late?While this story focuses on China's major effort to convince couples to have a second child, it also speaks to the rapid aging of China's population after more than three decades of its one-child policy. Provides good context for thinking about care of the elderly and how it will need to change given the population shifts.
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Why Are China’s Old and Young At Each Other’s Throats?Generational divides happen, and in China, given the country's rapid economic growth and huge societal changes during the past two decades, observers find a wider divide, especially when it comes to characterizations of older people on online media. Given the cultural messages about filial piety, the tensions in this divide can be difficult for those on both sides, the young and their elders.
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Under China's New Elderly Rights Law, Woman Ordered To Visit Mother Once Every 2 MonthsIn this Huffington Post video students can watch as an elderly mother asks the court to order her child to visit her. This story spotlights the legal implications of the "Eldery Rights Law," passed in China in 2013.
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Shanghai Says People Who Fail to Visit Parents Will Have Credit Scores LoweredMega cities in China are putting in place regulations that impose penalties on children who don't visit their parents. This story describes Shanghai's approach to this problem.
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Workers Get More Time Off for Elderly Parent Care China is grappling with how to care for its aging population at a time when many families have only one child who has to bear the entire family responsibility for care of his or her elderly parents. Lawmakers in some provinces are putting forth new regulations to aid sons and daughters. "Starting March 1, 2017 a new policy require employers in eastern China’s Fujian province to grant employees from one-child families an extra 10 days of paid annual leave in an effort to cope with the needs of an aging population."
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Community Facilities at Heart of China’s Growing Elderly CareGiven the demographic crisis that China is facing in the next few decades – as the proportion of elders soars and the number of children to take care of them diminishes – there is reason to look for solutions in communities. Elders resist leaving their homes and villages, so to have services available to enable them to remain in their homes is a sensible approach, one that is being created more and more these days. To read another story on this topic, go to this link: http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1000644/sichuan-asks-its-elderly-to-live-with-their-children
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1,370 Chinese Elderly Go Missing Every DayAccording to a Chinese government report issued in the fall of 2016, there is a rising number of “'left-behind elderly' — aging parents whose children work outside of their hometowns. Chinese people over the age of 60 numbered 222 million in 2015, and more than half of them live without their children, mostly in rural areas. That number continues to grow."
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The Lonely Aftermath of China's One-Child PolicyThis Bloomberg story is about the rise in single households in China during the last two decades. "The breakdown of that structure began with the imposition of the one-child family rule which was only removed last year. When millions of migrants began leaving family homes in the past three decades to seek work in the cities, many left parents behind. Some 19 million people 65 years and older live alone now in China, and the number will more than double to 46 million by 2050, according to estimates of Yeung and her colleagues."
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In Wake of Tornado, Migrant Son Buries FatherIn this photo essay and short story we learn of a son from a rural town who migrated to the city so he could earn money to care for his elderly father and his sisters. When a fierce tornado sweeps through his hometown, this son is called home to bury his elderly father.
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China’s transformation frays traditional family ties, hurting many seniorsIn this riveting photo gallery, we see the lives of elderly people in China without family to care for them. As the story tells us, "Decades of societal turmoil — radical communism followed by rampant capitalism — have frayed the ties that once bound China’s families together extremely closely. In a country famous for its Confucian traditions of filial obedience, tens of millions of elderly Chinese are being left behind by the country’s transformation, suffering poverty, illness and depression. It has become such a serious problem that the Chinese government put into effect a law in July allowing parents to sue their children if they failed to visit and support them."
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One Senior’s Struggle to Start Her Own Retirement HomeWith the care of elders an increasing problem in China, one woman set out to create a residential treatment home for elders in Wuxi. But her plans fell apart when local residents resisted having such a home created in their neighborhood. "Plans to open a senior home near residential neighborhoods have failed in other cities due to resident complaints, which usually manifest in only a few forms: the elderly carry illnesses; the residents don’t want the messiness or the infections; and there would be ambulances frequently coming and going, making it both 'unsightly and unlucky.' Plus, being around more seniors would mean being caught in moral dilemmas more often. Some people wonder openly if they are obligated to help when a senior citizen slips or falls in front of them — it’s a common fear in China that one might end up having to pay for medical costs after getting involved as a good Samaritan."
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High School and Above
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