Oct 13

(Letter) A question for readers of Fool’s Mountain blog

Written by guest on Monday, October 13th, 2008 at 1:40 am
Filed under:-mini-posts, politics | Tags:, , ,
Add comments

In his recent journalism book, “Out of Mao’s Shadow,” Philip Pan touched upon many problems in China, one of which is the heavy human cost resulting from cruel local implementations of the one-child policy. The author commented in the final chapter:

“Fertility rates were already falling quickly in the 1970s under the more moderate program launched by Zhou Enlai, from just under 6 births per woman at the beginning of the decade to 2.7 births when the one-child program was launched – one of the fastest declines in modern history. Nearly three decades of the one-child policy reduced the rate further by only about 1 more birth per woman, and even the government attributes half of that reduction to the impact of rising living standards. The government takes credit for the other half but could that modest decline have been achieved by enforcing a late marriage age or wider spacing of births? Could it have been achieved by following the experience of other developing countries and focusing on education and facilitating contraception?”

Judging from the above quote, even if it’s true that the one-child policy has only reduced the birth rate per woman from 2.7 to 1.7, that is still a 37% decrease, which is not as modest as Pan suggests. To those of us who grew up in China, the problems resulting from extremely high population density had certainly been huge and urgent. A late marriage age is a good idea, but it doesn’t constrain those who have already married. Education is of course an even better idea, but as a Chinese adage goes, to make a tree takes ten years, while making a person takes a hundred. Enforcing a wider spacing of births would run into the same drawbacks as enforcing a limited number of children.

But lets have a discussion. I would like to hear from you, especially those of you who have experiences or studied this area, as to whether the one-child policy itself is completely unnecessary and thus a wrong one, or if it’s the implementation method that needs to be improved.

Xujun Eberlein

There are currently no comments highlighted.

75 Responses to “(Letter) A question for readers of Fool’s Mountain blog”

  1. Steve Rose Says:

    Luckily china does not have a large conservative religion group that, say, cries foul on issues such as abortion. My feeling so far is the new generation (born after 1980) is pretty liberal on many things.

    My own opinion is the one child policy was created at a time when the birth rate is very high. We can not undo what was done. So in 2008, I think one child policy is not a big issue either way. You can not be sure what a 1980 policy change mean to the 2008 life. As the chinese economy develops, raising a child is more and more costly. Soon in big cities the situation is de facto one child per family.

  2. Wukailong Says:

    I would probably like the policy to continue, not to make people’s lives miserable, but rather because I believe having more than 1.3 billion people on the landmass of China isn’t sustainable in the long run. Ditto for India. Having a lot of people, all other things equal, of course gives you an advantage in some ways, but a lot of problems in the country also stems from the same advantage.

  3. S.K. Cheung Says:

    If the policy is one child, but a woman is giving birth 1.7 times, where’s the other 0.7? What is the infant mortality rate in China (let’s say pre-melamine)? Or are women getting divorced, remarrying, and having another child? Or is it something else to account for it?

    I saw a while back a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary on this policy, and one of the initially unforeseen consequences was the large disparity in the population of men and women, given that, if a Chinese family could only have one child, many would prefer a boy. Now, there are apparently literally not enough women to go around, and many men can’t find a spouse.

  4. Steve Says:

    @SKC: Actually, I think the numbers are off on the given reproduction rate. The numbers I’ve seen are between 1.3 and 1.9, depending on which list you see, with 2.1 needed to keep the population stable. According to the UN Population Division, China’s population will peak at 1.458 billion in 2030, then start to lower and by 2050 should be around 1.408 billion and will lose 20 million people every five years.

    The biggest problem is the increase in the average median age. In 2005 it was 32, but by 2050 it’ll be 45, so you’ll have a multitude of senior citizens with no one to care for them. It’s a problem both ways; keep the population increase high to pay for the old, or lower the population and not have enough money for a safety net.

    I can think of a few options: Cut spending on the military and infrastructure to pay for senior citizen’s care, or raise taxes on the working class to pay for it. The first option would risk China’s defense and status in the world, but the second option would risk revolution. Can anyone think of other options?

    When I worked there, most of my colleagues had one sibling. These people would be in their 30s today. Everyone under 27-28 was an only child but had many cousins, since their parents all came from large families. I think at one time, a woman who bore something like eight children was considered a hero of the party, and I believe the average were six children back then. Interestingly, the one child family children call their cousins “brother” or “sister”, since it’s the closest they have to the real thing.

    In the countryside, boys are strongly favored because they can work the farm but also because the Chinese culture designates that the eldest son takes care of the parents. Many women in both China and Taiwan have told me they would NEVER marry an eldest son, for that very reason. But these days, especially in cities like Shanghai, the only daughters take care of their parents so the culture is changing in the bigger cities. In fact, I’ve had Shanghainese tell me that parents now prefer a daughter to a son.

    One last thing: I also know several younger people who have a few siblings, though they are from the one child era. Why? Because their parents had money and would just buy their way to more children. Sometimes the parents would give the child to a cousin to raise for a few years so the schools would not notice, then take the child back into their real family. I believe the minorities are allowed to have two children and certain peasant farmers are also allowed to have two.

    One huge problem that SKC mentions is the huge disparity between boys and girls. I’ve read it’s around 40 million extra boys. There have been kidnappings in the country to find wives, and I’ve even read reports of incest to keep some country families going. In the past, whenever there has been this great a difference, the society has solved the problem by waging war. In this day and age, that is no longer a viable solution so I’m not sure how it can be addressed. There will be so many guys that can never find a woman to marry, never raise a family, and never have a normal home life. It is really very sad.

  5. Nimrod Says:

    S.K. Cheung wrote:

    If the policy is one child, but a woman is giving birth 1.7 times, where’s the other 0.7?
    One child is merely the typical case. Minorities have more than one. Rural families have more than one. Enforcement is also uneven.

    Steve wrote:

    I can think of a few options: Cut spending on the military and infrastructure to pay for senior citizen’s care, or raise taxes on the working class to pay for it. The first option would risk China’s defense and status in the world, but the second option would risk revolution. Can anyone think of other options?
    How about productivity increases so fewer people can support more people with the same burden as now? That is already kind of true. If you earned a high salary, one person could take care of two parents by paying for their stay in a retirement home, and still have income left. If you had to do it yourself like in the old days, you and your siblings might have to rotate and spend all your time doing just that.

  6. Nobody Says:

    “There will be so many guys that can never find a woman to marry, never raise a family, and never have a normal home life. It is really very sad.”

    There is always the ancient way to fall back on, like “走婚”….????

  7. ecodelta Says:

    Most adopted kids here that are coming from China are girls.

    It could be an option for future desperate young Chinese guys to try that option. But if any of them is successful he will too late realize how desperate that option really was.

    Spanish women have a fiery character…, even those “Made in China” 😉
    (not to speak of the relationships between the mothers in law….)

  8. ecodelta Says:

    Now, seriously. I thing the government in China has stepped too much on the population control brakes. As the population pyramid gets inverted there will be not only the problem of the sex imbalance but also a future crunch of young people and a too high number of old retired people.

    Another question is from where will come the workforce for pushing China ahead. One of the keys of the productivity and “China price” is a pool of, so far, inexhaustible, cheap young labor force. What will happen with productivity and cheap Chinese goods?

    Also, maybe the reason for keeping pushing forward building infrastructures and higher economic growth is to take full advantage of this youth bulge before they get too old.

    But I fear China is going to get much much older before it gets any richer. Maybe after a second phase to digest an “elder bulge” will be necessary until all the population imbalances and excesses produced in the last decades are finally corrected.

    It is a good prospect for a peaceful future anyway in Asia. If China will only be able to put an army composed of a majority of elder people on the future battlefield, they will more interested in promoting peace than anything else. No more “human wave” assault techniques possible. Even advanced technology need young brains. Ever tried to teach how to use a video recorder, computer or las generation mobile phone to old grandpa?

    Time to invest technology good diplomacy.

  9. EugeneZ Says:


    The “one-child” policy is more nuanced than the name would suggest. In rural area, if the first child is a girl, then the couple is legally allowed to have a 2nd child. That alone boosts the birth rate by around 0.4. There are other exceptions – some mentioned by Nimrod.

    Regarding the uneven ratio of male vs. female, it is unfortunate, but it wil pass. Korea went through the same thing, but nowadays, more Koreans actually prefer a girl than a boy. Modernization will take care of this kind of things naturally. The key is to focus on the process of modernization. CCP just passed some new policy on how to develop China’s rural areas this week – it is something that is worth noting.

    I have not read Philip Pan’s book, and I would not have high expectation about the book. How much insight do you expect from a westerner who merely spent a few years as an expat in Beijing as a journalist for a US newspaper?

  10. ecodelta Says:


    Why a “westener” who merely spent a “few years” as an “expat” in Beijing can not have enough “insight” about something he writes about China?

  11. Hongkonger Says:

    Philip Pan is now Moscow. He actually has quite a few good things to say about China.

  12. Kage Musha Says:

    The aging demographics problem is not a particular problem for China alone, it is happening with many Western-European countries and it’s neightbour Japan. The challenge for China is that these countries are well-developed countries while China is still on it’s way to become one.

    For a time China has encouraged it’s people to get many children (Mao) but then soon other leaders realised it would cause problems later on (self-sufficiency of the country) and implemented the one-child policy. At that time it was necessary but also highly criticised by mainly the developed world. Even though this policy has a positive side-effect for the rest of the world (imagine what the world and its crisises would have been right now if China has way more then the 1.3 billion people it has now).
    Now I think the policy can be more relaxed. More people will be living in the urban areas which will cause people to naturally have less children (as Steve Rose points out).

  13. GNZ Says:

    I agree with Wukailong there are to many people – I wish India was smart enough to have a similar policy.
    And if Africa had a similar policy it might not be the total mess we see today.

  14. Frank Says:

    Don’t follow the fool who tell us that old people are a burden to the society. It is a burden only if they want to live a luxury life, even in their old age, and refuse to go when its time.
    If organised well, old people can almost sustain themselve with minimal resouces. How much they can eat and what new cloth do they need? Why trouble everyone when their time is up?
    Ideally, society should provide minimum guidance to set up self sustain old folks home where the 60 take care of the 70, and they in turn be taken care of later by new group of 60. You be surprise what those in the 60 can do.

  15. TonyP4 Says:

    From the rich, developed west, one-child policy is barbaric. For a resource poor country like China, it is the ONLY way to go and it should not be relaxed. India will fall further behind to China as they cannot control the population.

    As no policy is perfect, China needs to tweak the system like improving the boy/girl percentage, little emperors, caring for the old… Should minority have a two-child policy instead of no policy for them? I’m sure they’re doing the best they can but the results are mixed at best.

  16. saimneor Says:

    The policy also says, if the parents are both the only child in the family, they can have two children.

    Also, for minorities such as in Tibet or XinJiang, the policy is loose on non-Han chinese.

  17. fobtacular Says:

    The one-child policy is poorly thought out. It should have been ONE-BOY policy. That is you if your first birth is a girl, you are allowed to conceive another child until you get a boy. It would have solved all those problem that came with the one-child policy.

    1. Boy/girl ratio – it wouldn’t hurt to have more boys than girls, but it would be chaos if there are more boys than girl.
    2. Baby girl infanticide would be will be virtually eliminated. Sonar scanning to determined sex of fetus then abortion if it is a girl scenario would be solved also.
    3. Girls are a lot easier to raise than boy in China. Girls have less ego-emission than boys :).

    I will leave it to you guys to figure out rest of the pros/con of this policy.

  18. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To fobtacular:
    …or Chinese people could get over their traditional infatuation with having boys….but i think your policy has a better chance of success.

  19. Raj Says:

    fobtacular makes a good point. I think it would be sensible to loosen the policy, so that families living in rural areas can have up to three children if the first two are girls and those in urban areas can have two, if the first is a girl.

    Hopefully it would stop or at least severely reduce selective abortions.

  20. FOARP Says:

    My take: births per woman is not all it’s cracked up to be, many countries have a birth rate lower than 2.1, but still have growing populations even if they are not experiencing high levels of immigration. Why? Because people are living longer, just as they are now in China. People usually think of this in terms of more old-age pensioners, but this also includes more children surviving to reach adulthood, more young adults surviving illness and accidents and fewer mothers dying in childbirth – all undeniably good things in the narrow economic view as well as in a more humanitarian view. It is entirely possible for the birth rate to increase once population growth slows – which it hasn’t yet, as growth is still pushing 12 million people a year.

    The effect of the one-child policy is also over-hyped. Many of the rich have children because they can afford to pay the fines, many of the poor pay because they can hide the births, and do not really play a role in the cash economy. It is the middle class who suffer most from it, but many of them hope to have more children once they become richer.

  21. JL Says:

    I have heard China’s population control policy described as the world’s only serious environmental policy, and am inclined to agree.
    I’m not quite sure I agree with FOARP that the effects of the policy have been over-hyped. I think, if anything, this policy will be seen by future historians as one the most significant endeavors the CCP ever undertook. China scholar Anne Aganost also suggests that the idea of ‘the population’ and quest to control its growth and raise its quality has been at the heart of the CCP’s legitimization of its rule.

  22. Charles Liu Says:

    This may be anecdotal – most of my cousins have 2-3 children, and they all live in the city. The one with single child is because of her health, and husband is policeman (their family is expected to set “excellent societal example”).

    @Raj, some of the things you mentioned are already there, as others have mentioned. There are many exceptions to the policy: when both parents are only-child, only child is disabled (birth or cause), death of child, 2nd try for boy after 5 years, rural and ethnic minority exemptions, to name a few.

    Or simply negotiage down the fine and pay for it, as Foarp mentioned. These days with increasing urban prosperity, this isn’t uncommon. This also illustrates the main complaints seem to be local enforcement problems in the past (abuse, fairness), rather than the policy aim itself or current states of reality.

  23. Xujun Says:

    JL, would you like to provide a link to Anne Aganost’s work? Thanks.

  24. Raj Says:


    There are many exceptions to the policy: when both parents are only-child, only child is disabled (birth or cause), death of child, 2nd try for boy after 5 years, rural and ethnic minority exemptions, to name a few.

    Yes – I acknowledged the rural differences and ethnic exemptions have already been mentioned. But generally the exceptions don’t work, because people are still killing baby girls either before or after birth. Some women can’t wait five years if they start having children late.

    Other than bring in draconian punishments, the only option left is to change the policy itself to make it more flexible for all rather than try to select certain groups.

  25. Charles Liu Says:

    Raj, this ain’t PKD so I’m gonna call you on this (and not get banned) – can you show some current figures (06-08), real or imaginary, to substantiate your “Chinese are still killing baby girls” generalization?

    Here’s a case study from my uncle’s family. He has two sons and two daughters (not aware of any that were killed) born around 60’s and 70’s (one of the son is patriotically named Zhu Yue “Aid Vietnam” for reference) during height of the one-child policy. These cousins all have had children around the 90’s:

    Cuz #1 (female) – two daughters (none were killed)
    Cuz #2 (male) – two daughters (none were killed)
    Cuz #3 (male) – two daughters (none were killed), one son
    Cuz #4 – (female) – one daughter (not killed)

  26. Nimrod Says:

    Charles Liu,

    There is some unhelpful ideological rhetoric in Raj’s comment: “killing … before or after birth”. Raj counts abortions as killing, so conveniently conflates two unrelated hot-button issues.

    I would be very surprised that Chinese parents, like any parents, would kill babies. The worst is probably abandonment. Mostly they are given up for adoption to relatives or orphanages.

  27. Steve Rose Says:


    I am sure killing a newborn baby girl happened. We read it from the novels in the 50’s. However, if I do not believe in 2008 a statistically-significant portion of chinese family does that. In fact, in mid-to-large-sized cities, now parents prefer girls, as girls treat their parents better. I can only see a strong preference of baby boys in low income families, that is my estimation.

  28. Steve Says:

    @fobtacular: your ideas sound good to me. I think the one child policy was good for its time but these days the population explosion is over and things are much calmer. To be honest, I think most of the foreign criticism, though directed at China, was really meant as a domestic critique of abortion and birth control policy and really had nothing to do with China, just as China sometimes says things that are directed at other countries but really meant for their own citizens.

    One thing I did notice in China is that large age differences between couples are not a big deal. Girls told me that they look for a man at least four years older than they are, since they felt girls mature faster than guys. Many preferred men to be 10-20 years older. So maybe if the female population increases, some of these older single guys can still find wives. The policy seems to be changing slowly but surely to allow more children. Most everyone I met in China would prefer to have two children rather than one.

  29. michelle Says:

    fobtacular : One boy policy is fine if you have no problem aborting on average about the same number of male fetuses as baby girls who are born…. Not a great option even if you are pro choice.

    Charles Liu: The fact that there is a significant sex skew shows that something is happening, either female fetuses are being aborted or female babies being killed. Most definitely mostly the former.

    The sex skew is 119:100 in China (2005) according to a CBC article which says China was going to make it illegal to abort femal fetuses. I don’t have time to find out if this indeed has happened and if it’s had any effect.

    Of course India is the country which gets the most media attention over this issue, but the sex ratio for births is not much different.

    I would imagine that selective abortions are happening primarily amoung the low-educated poor, and so one of the primary ways of addressing the problem is to raise education and living standards, which is already being addressed.

  30. michelle Says:


  31. michelle Says:

    on a lighter note: how about a one wife two husbands policy?

  32. Steve Says:

    Michelle, thanks for the link. Do you think that even with the new laws, the government can actually stop female fetuses from being aborted in the countryside? Enforcement of law in China has been pretty sporadic in most things.

    Why would there be an equal number of aborted male fetuses? I must be missing something there…

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Michelle #29:
    agreed. I think selective abortion based on gender is pretty disgusting. And I’m hoping most would agree that “killing (one) newborn baby girl” (Steve Rose #27) would be morally reprehensible; forget about a “statistically-significant portion of Chinese families”.

    As you suggest, when gender should be statistically 50:50, and you have a 20% deviation, something nefarious and potentially unsavoury might be going on.

    The polygamy thing sounds like a brilliant idea. Or maybe have male versions of concubines. I remember Raise the Red Lantern…that movie would’ve been hilarious if the roles were reversed….but hopefully they would still cast Gong Li.

  34. Steve Says:

    Michelle, on a lighter note, did you know that there is actually a minority culture in China that practices a form of polyandry? They are called the Mosuo and live in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces near Tibet; a matriarchal culture with “walking marriages”, a very unique way of living.

    Hmm… one household, three incomes? That should raise living standards! 🙂

  35. Steve Says:

    SKC, I’m with you on casting Gong Li. Michelle Yeoh would also be fine; anyone but Zhang Ziyi…

  36. GNZ Says:

    I don’t know any Chinese people who don’t strongly prefer a boy children (none of whom are poor or uneducated) – of course that doesn’t meant they abort girl babies but they would certainly take other measures to try to have a boy. I also, as it happens, know an Indian who has had multiple abortions of girl babies and we don’t have a one child policy here.

  37. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To GNZ:
    what “other measures”? I think the “heavy on boys; light on girls” attitude is something Chinese and Indian cultures share.

  38. Nimrod Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    How about adoption? Almost all adoptions out of China are girls. There are thousands of them each year. Anyway, the sex ratio will take care of itself. When boys cannot find wives, girls will be (already are) very much desired. These days there is some kind of reverse dowry going on in many big cities where the boy’s family is expected to provide a house, a car, and the boy needs to have a high paying job.

  39. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    oh no, what don’t you like about Zhang Ziyi? Of course the other two choices are perfect. But cast all 3 and you’d have a Crouching Tiger/Memoirs of a Geisha reunion.

  40. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Nimrod:
    reverse dowry you say…since I have girls…go on, tell me more…what’s in it for the father of the bride? Actually, since I live in Canada, I don’t think I’ll be getting any of that action anyway.

    I heard about the adoptions. But seems to me sending girls out of the country would simply exacerbate the girl shortage.

  41. GNZ Says:

    There are a number of natural strategies one can use to increase the probability of having a boy or a girl because if differences between the sperm – maybe not a suitable topic for this forum though. A couple of my friends have also suggested they would get artificial insemination to ensure a boy, they say they can do that now.

  42. Nobody Says:

    MIchelle, Steve,

    ” There is always the ancient way, “走婚”to fall back on.”
    Anyone familiar with the ancient Amazon customs?
    Who knows, by 2100 legal marriages may only be practiced by the filthy rich for inheritence purpose?

  43. kui Says:

    I do not think Chinese middle class women want more than one child. I have a group of girl friends can be classified as educated middle class women. I can see one common thing in them. They enjoyed the “two persons’ world” after they got married and worked hard to build their careers. They had their first child in their late twenties or early thirties and stick to it. That is the only way to remain competitive.

    I do not think the boy-girl ratio is a big deal. Chinese marriage is often older man to younger woman type. Man can always find wife in younger availabe pool if they can not get a similar age woman.

  44. Raj Says:

    Charles, why should anyone get banned? I don’t understand your comment.

    I should have been more specific. I didn’t mean to imply that baby girls were being thrown in weighted sacks into rivers like unwanted kittens every day, but abandoning babies anywhere other than outside a hospital, police station, orphanage, etc is at the least attempted murder. Otherwise one could give them up for adoption. And the article below does assert that some newly-born Chinese girls are killed.

    If you want figures, well I don’t have any, nor does anyone else that I know of. But if you follow the “I want figures to back up what you say” road every time, you can use it for anything. Clearly that doesn’t help.

    That your uncle’s family did not kill/abandon any girls is quite irrelevant, other than showing that they saw some value in them and/or are human beings. But if you want a history lesson then the following article is a rather unpleasant example of how some people at least in the past thought that a baby girl was worth killing.



    Nimrod, I think you mentioned adoption? The question is, how easy is it is to find new homes for them? Even if all the unwanted children in China were given up for adoption rather than abandoned, if they can’t be re-homed properly then they’ll suffer.

    I’d suggest a range of incentives for families with only daughters, such as generous and substantial loans for farm improvements, buying equipment, bursaries for education, etc but I wonder whether that would work. The problem seems to be a prejudice that only education and government information campaigns over many years could address. Then again perhaps cold, hard cash in the right amounts is the best way to dispell prejudice.

    There’s a good book that in some ways deals with that, “Miss Chopsticks” by Xinran, where girls previously seen as being a waste of space generated income for their families who then treated them with new-found respect.

  45. kui Says:

    It is illegal to tell the sex of the fetus. The Chinese government outlawed the practice many years ago. But there is an ultrasound machine in almost every single village in China, and telling the sex of the fetus only takes the u/s technician a nod or a shake of head. The one who wants to find out the sex of the baby can always find out. The old tradition values boys more than girls. What do you expect? In the past there was not any U/S machine to find out. The birth of girls (expecially repeated birth of girls) brought the mother’s status down. My grandma gave birth to 4 girls before she could produce a boy. 2 of the 4 girls did not survive due to intended negligence. While people in cities now prefer girls over boys, in the rural areas boys still have much higher status.The old culture needs to be challenged and it can only be done through education. I support the one child policy because it is the way out of vicious circle of “overpopullation-poor education-poverty”

    In recent years there is a new policy in rural China that the family can have second child if the first child is a girl. I think many girls will loose their education opportunity to their younger brothers.

    People tend to talk about the human rights of the parents when they mention one child policy. How about the children’s human rights? The rights to food, healthcare, education……? Had worked in China’s heaIth care system I came across with some parents who have half a dozen to 10 children but made no commitment to their children’s wellbeings or unable to fullfil their commitment. These children would be better off if their parents had fewer children. Surely one child policy is full of flaws but without it there would be more problems.

  46. pink Says:

    do all chinese really only have one-child? I’ll give some examples.
    1) my aunt#1 has a daughter and a son born in the 80s.(that’s 2) from city
    2) my aunt#2 has 3 daughters born in the 90s.(that’s 3) from the city
    3) a friend of my parents has only a son (cause the father works for the government) (only 1)from the city
    4)my friend in china has two sisters born in the 80s.(that’s 3) from the city
    5)another friend has 3 siblings born in the 90s( that’s 4) from the countryside

    All these people are han-chinese, middle class, from cities.most of them have more than one child, it seems that only 2 kind of people only have one child:
    1) if they work for the government
    2) because they do not want to have more than one

  47. Steve Says:

    pink, I’m curious if these people cover all parts of China or just a certain section? The reason I ask is that with the people I knew, it seemed those from southern China, especially Guangdong province, all seem to have two or three children but those from Shanghai or Beijing were one child households. I know for sure that many of those families wanted more than one child and none of them worked for the government.

    SKC, I might be the exception but I don’t think Zhang is very attractive or a very good actress. I think there are a whole bunch of actresses in China that are much better. She does seem to be the one the western movie studios call when they need a young asian actress for their movies.

    When I was in China though, most Chinese I met didn’t care for her either and felt she wasn’t that pretty. I know there are differences in beauty standards between east and west (might make for a good post topic) so I guess I’m in the east’s camp on that one.

  48. TonyP4 Says:

    Zhang is no match for Gong esp. in the figure department. Her natural beauty in Coming Home is undeniable. She did not make friends with the press for sure. The 3 pillars of success: luck, hard work, and her gene. She got all 3.

  49. Charles Liu Says:

    Kui @45, can you point me to this law forbidding ultrasound gender identification? I knew India has law like this but was unaware of China has it too.

  50. GNZ Says:

    that sort of law sound very hard to enforce –
    only two people need know anything about that identification and getting a scan is prudent regarding genetic diseases – how would you going to pass a law against the doctor just slipping a hint?

  51. pink Says:

    I cannot say that all china is like that but at least southern chinese usually do have more than one child. It includes zhejiang,fujian,guangdong provinces(maybe more provinces).sorry i don’t know how’s the situation in beijing or shanghai,maybe people from big cities do not want more than one child because nowadays it cost A LOT to raise a child in the cities. What i am trying to say is that despite the one-child policy having a second child is not that difficult. as a result many people at least in southern china has more than one-child.
    I did not read all the comments so i don’t know why zhang ziyi was in this topic but anyways i don’t think zhang is considered really pretty in China. she is just ok

  52. chinayouren Says:

    It is surprising how many people from the West are extremely critical of the single child policy. They attack it on the grounds of supposed ethical/religious beliefs, or worrying about some mass baby sacrifices that they read about somewhere. Actually, I believe this policy is one of the great successes of the Chinese government.

    Yes, the single child policy, even with its exceptions and comments mentioned above, is quite a radical approach, and it has some downsides. In particular, it may fuel a pre-existing tendency in the chinese society to prefer a male first son. And there is in China an indefinite number of girls abortions and, in a few extreme cases, there has been murders of babies. How many of them are directly caused or avoided by the single child policy it is very difficult to say. Yes, I said avoided: in the old china, when resources didn’t match the growing population, there was a very strong motivation for peasants to get rid of their baby girls, who where less productive and couldn’t ensure the survival of the family farm.

    In any case, baby killing is a deplorable problem, and one on which Chinese authorities should act with the highest severity, imposing exemplary punishments on the murderous parents. But to judge the single child policy based on those extreme cases is, to say the least, tendentious. One could also compare with the situation in some very christian African countries, where children die before they’ve even lived in a Malthusian trap set by the benevolent teachings of the western churches.

    That is the real tragedy, and one from which China, thanks to her strong leadership, has managed to escape. But what am I saying, who cares about Africans, it is a bit of china-bashing that helps sell newspapers. And it is so much more exciting to state sweepingly that chinese kill their baby girls.

    I swear to God, I heard an American acquaintance in Shanghai recently say to her friend: “I read that in some regions they even eat them!”

  53. Stinky Tofu Says:

    Some oppose China’s family planning policies on religious grounds. Many others understand the problem China faces but are critical of the way the policy has been implemented – forced abortions, harsh sanctions for (poor) couples who disobey, loopholes which have allowed the wealthy and politically connected to have multiple children, etc. Then there is the problem of sex selection (anyone who believes that it doesn’t happen needs to have their head examined) – in some areas of China, 120 boys are born for every 100 girls. I’ve read that tens of millions of Chinese men will likely never marry. Some predict that the legions of bachelors could have a profound destabilizing effect on Chinese society.

    In the end, the one child policy has been both a (short-term) success and a (long-term) failure. On the one hand, China’s population is reported to be 300 million less than it might have been. On the other, low birth rates, combined with increased life expectancy, have created a demographic time bomb. China’s own Academy of Social Sciences predicts that China will “become old before it gets rich.” They are not alone in their prediction – the problem is receiving considerable attention these days. The problem with China “getting old before it gets rich” is that once a society ages, economic growth slows. The day of reckoning is not far off – twenty years or so. By mid-century, China’s population is predicted to be approximately 1.5 billion (though it could well be more than that – many scholars believe that China’s current population is considerably more than the official 1.3 billion), a quarter (1/4) over the age of 60 – and more than 100 million over the age of 80. A disaster for an economy like China’s.

    A real shame that Mao didn’t listen to Ma Yinchu (As the saying goes, “One less Ma Yinchu, 300 million more Chinese.”) back in 1957. Sadly, China will be paying for Mao’s mistakes for generations to come.

    * I, for one, wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that some Chinese (Cantonese, perhaps?) have eaten aborted fetuses. Ever see the movie 餃子? Cannibalism goes way, way back in China. And not simply during times of famine.

  54. Michelle Says:


    One boy policy is fine if you have no problem aborting on average about the same number of male fetuses as baby girls who are born…. Not a great option even if you are pro choice.

    Sorry about the confusion: i’ll explain: You have one child, it’s a boy. You’ve reached your limit for boys. Get pregnant again, find out it’s another boy, can’t have it, abort. Get pregant again, girl, good. Get pregnant again, another boy, abort. Next time, girl, ok.

    If you want more than one child, but are limited to one boy, there are going to be a lot of boy’s aborted.

  55. Michelle Says:

    SK Cheung:
    “The polygamy thing sounds like a brilliant idea.” You’re telling me! but I’d insist on as many houses as men 🙂

    “I remember Raise the Red Lantern…that movie would’ve been hilarious if the roles were reversed….” HA! lol. That would be soooo funny – someone should totally make that movie.

    Nimrod: Anyway, the sex ratio will take care of itself.” no, it won’t, not easily. A large population of frustrated poor men who can’t find wives and can’t afford dowrys will increase kidnapping, child marriage, prostitution, forced prostitution, etc… And it also comes with unsettled anger and hopelessness. It’s not something that resolves itself. I’ll try to find links for this, it’s a *very* serious issue in places with gender imbalance.

    Yep, I’ve traveled in Yunnan in Naxi and Mosuo areas. Interestingly, Wikipedia says “But political power tends to be in the hands of males, which disqualifies them as a true matriarchy.” I’ll have to read up more on it.

  56. Hongkonger Says:

    TonyP4: Her natural beauty in Coming Home is undeniable.

    YES. I love that movie.

    Ever see the movie 餃子? Cannibalism goes way, way back in China. And not simply during times of famine.

    LOL..餃子, this HK made horror movie was really entertaining made after the tradition of the 1980s mega hit “人肉叉烧饱” which catapulted 黄秋生 to super-stardom. He played a KMT officer in the beautifully filmed movie “Painted Veil,” with the superb Edward Norton and the lovely Naomi Watts. The Painted Veil,” is an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel of love and imperialism in a time of cholera [in Shichuan, China.]

    After reading the following on San Francisco Chronicles, I have even more respect for this brilliant actor:

    China, past and present, is much on Norton’s mind. Norton studied Chinese history at Yale and has observed (and assisted) while his father spent six years with the Nature Conservancy’s China program, helping the country’s economy grow while trying to minimize environmental impact.

    “You can’t walk into someone’s country and tell them how to do things,” Norton says, settling onto a gold brocade couch. “I’m sorry, but it is arrogant. It’s one thing to take a stand on human rights; it’s another thing to go in and start lecturing people on environmental policy when we ourselves are moving backward.”

  57. chinayouren Says:

    @At stinky Tofu:

    – About the forceful sex selection: This is solved by education and economic conditions. Killing of baby girls has happened in China long before the single child policy, for the reasons stated in my previous post. The increased number of abortions today is rather a result of the scientific advances that allow people (although illegally) to know in advance the sex of the baby.

    – Yes, some announce a demographic time bomb. Some others say it will be OK. Granted there shall be some effects on the economy when the population ages, as has already happended in Western countries who led the way.

    However there is a very obvious reason why this is unlikely to have a negative effect in China: there is a mass of around 800 Million people in the country waiting at the doors of the new economy to be allowed to join. These people are today, from an economic point of view, “inexistant”. As the numbers of the active population in the chinese economy falters, these newcomers will make up for the loss. And in the process, they will contribute to extend the new economy to all the regions of China, developing the internal market that the system so desperately needs.

  58. Charles Liu Says:

    Just as a reference here’s what I found from the CIA world factbook:

    “at birth: 1.11 male(s)/female
    under 15 years: 1.13 male(s)/female
    15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.91 male(s)/female
    total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2008 est.)”

  59. Steve Says:

    @Michelle #54: Gotcha! Thanks for the explanation; it makes sense to me now.

  60. kui Says:

    Charles Liu.

    I think (if I remembered correctly) the law ( with some exemptions) came to force in early 1990s. I worked in a large pediatrics hospital then and the hospital made sure every employee in the hospital know the new law. After the law was implemented for about 2 years I had a discussion with a friend who worked in the city’s Women’s Hospital about the law. We both came to conclusion that the law will never work in reality.

    I do not have a website. I only remember I read a Time magazine article mentioned the law years ago.

  61. kui Says:

    To Stinky Tofu.

    I think one child policy will lead to a long term economy success as it guarantees the best possible education & best possible health care for the future workers. They will become more skilled efficient workers & continue to fuel China’s economy. Without it China will have to face a total social, economical and enviromental disaster. The land and nature resources simply can not sustain a popullation of more than a billion for a long term.

  62. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi HongKonger, I liked that scary movie about human dumpling. Quite scary, imaginative and logical for Chinese.

    Chinese has some stupid and scientifically incorrect concept: eating something similar will improve that part of the body like monkey’s brain, animal penis, and fetuses (in this movie). The more rarer the food, the better for your body.

    I try to avoid sharp fin’s soup, bird nest soup…

    I saw in a documentary that they can use a illegal device to determine the sex and then do abortion accordingly.

    Do not know how 130 boys share 100 girls (if it is the ratio). It means 30 boys out of 100 will be single, some girls will be wife part-time, or China legalize pleasure house (it could be the best industry). Or, we can conquer some countries and send girl slaves back like we used to hundred years ago.

  63. Charles Liu Says:

    Tony, not sure where u got the 130 figure… please see 2008 stats in comment #58.

    There seems to be a lot of stuff floating around, and I for one will admit I’m not knowledgable. Can someone point me to sources (family planning law, population figures, etc.) Especially any Chinese source, be glad to translate.

  64. TonyP4 Says:

    #53 states 120 to 100 in boys to girls in some areas.

  65. TonyP4 Says:

    U can find everything you want to know but afraid to ask in Wikipedia. Try the following:


  66. chriswaugh_bj Says:

    Charles Liu, the cousins you cite in comment #25 as evidence for your argument are irrelevant. You set the alarm bells ringing when you mentioned one of your cousins is called “Zhuyue”. The one child policy was put forward in the late 1970s- 1978 if I’m not mistaken- and, naturally, it took some time to come into full force. China and Vietnam fought a brief war in 1979 and still have unresolved territorial disputes. The suggestion that a child born at the height of the one child policy could be called “Aid Vietnam” is absurd. But you had already confirmed my suspicions be stating straight up that your cousins were born in the 1960s and 1970s- before the one child policy was even proposed.

  67. Hongkonger Says:


    “I try to avoid shark fin’s soup, bird nest soup… ”

    I am not sure what health value Shark fins has other than for its very palatable texture, and of course for the portrayal of ones prosperous status. As for Bird’s nest soup, for a long time the gift suitable for Emperors, Queens and wealthy women is today actually more popular than ever. My buddy who works in the entertainment business tells me that HK heartthrob, Andy Lau, now in his 50s, for example, takes bird’s nest soup daily – like many veteran Asian celebrities do – to maintain his youthful looks and to stay slim.

  68. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Hongkonger,

    Some one told me when he pissed by the side of Mr Shaw, the TV producer, he smelled ginseng from his urine (that should be recycled haha). We have to send Andy and Mr. Shaw for scientific evaluation for the good of human.

    I’ve bird’s nest soup in Thailand and Malaysia for very cheap prices. Most Chinese banquets have sharp fin soup that is about half of the price of the entire banquet.

    Some one also told me that having sex with virgin would improve your health esp. for old men. I’m going to ask the TV show Myth or Bust for confirmation.

  69. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TonyP4:
    seriously LOL “Some one also told me that having sex with virgin would improve your health esp. for old men. I’m going to ask the TV show Myth or Bust for confirmation” – I’m sure the MythBuster boys will be fighting to take a crack at that one. Wonder where they’ll find the volunteer. But actually, this sounds more a question for MANswers.

    I fail to see the point of shark fin soup, apart from what HKer says about status symbolism. The soup is fine, but the fin itself is tasteless, almost like vermicelli noodles. Never understood the appeal.

    And what is up with Andy Lau. Last time I saw him in a movie, looked like he’d done some serious steroids…guy looked like the Michelin Man.

  70. TonyP4 Says:

    For $9.95, there are thousands of 70 year old virgins, fat and ugly, are begging for the opportunity, esp. in this economy. Hope will not offend any virgins here, haha.

  71. Hongkonger Says:


    You do realize Mr Shaw was born in October, 1907 and is therefore officially 101 years old.

    SKC, He has a 23-story Shaw Tower at Cathedral Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Know where that is?

    OK, guys, I know what you must be thinking cause I’ve thought it too. The MythBuster boys can’t prove anything that is faith based or metaphysical like “chi” right? Nevertheless, may I suggest you guys ask Huge Heifner, instead.


  72. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To HKer:
    “Know where that is?”- nope.

  73. Charles Liu Says:

    Chris BJ @ 66 🙂 what about their kids? Not relevant either?

  74. Ted Says:

    Kui #45 and Charles Liu #49 reminded me of a funny class where a student mentioned (without thinking?) that he would have a baby boy in three months. The other students alternately queried and stated, “how’d you find out?”… “that’s illegal”… “how’d you find out?”… “that’s illegal”. Apparently for a small fee, the doctor told him he would have a soccer player. Opps, is that sexist? sorry Michelle:-)

  75. Charles Liu Says:

    Chris BJ @ 66, Please read the Wikipedia article cited above – “population policies and campaigns have been ongoing in China since the 1950s.”

Leave a Reply