Monday, December 6, 2010

Little Emperors

In one of the NPR World News articles, Louisa Lim reports on the effects of the Chinese “One Child Policy” among the new generation of Chinese youth. Initiated in 1976, “One Child Policy” was intended to address the issue of overpopulation within China. Living up traditional values and family expectations, couples are pressured into producing male offspring – tipping the balance between genders within the country. The “only” children, often dubbed “Little Emperors”, enjoy a privileged life showered with attention from their parents and relatives. However, such an inclusive and sheltered life has produced unexpected problems for the new generation in the Chinese society. According to the author of I Am Not Happy: The Declaration of an ‘80s Generation Only Child, Liu Yi, the only children are molded into “miniature adults” by the excessive attention, “simple-minded, [and] unable to see the realities of life”, and lacking in depth due to the absence of burdens”. This article offers an interesting glimpse into the lonely lives of the “Little Emperors” of China.
In the article, Lim uses the literary devices of irony and metaphors to illustrate the stressful lives of the only children. In fact, article’s title “China’s Little Emperors, Lucky Yet Lonely” conveys a sense of irony. One would expect these only children to live a life of privilege and entitlement; however, some interviewees express their lives as frustrating and difficult. Lim also uses the metaphor of a “sun” in describing the lifestyle of the only children. Such an application of a metaphor effectively provides readers a mental image of these children’s positions as the center of attention.
Along with the tremendous love and attention received, the only children are nonetheless pressured into excel in life in order to repay their parents’ support. As one of the interviewees, Jing Jing, states that during her childhood she was sad and angry due to having to study and practice, in order to please her parents, while others got to play outside. As a result of years of perseverance, Jing managed to become a successful Public Relations officer. Another negative impact of the “One-Child Policy” appears within the mentalities and social behaviors of the only children. Leading an isolated and sheltered life, many struggle to compromise in their relationships with others. According to statistics, one in five marriages in China ends in a divorce due largely to the couple’s inabilities to tolerate their differences. Such difficulties stems from the non-conforming behavior ingrained by the over-accommodating attitudes of their parents. As Jing stated, “You never compromise to your parents, and your parents let it go.” By adulthood, these “only-child” often clash with their spouses since neither one of them is willing to budge.
Others argue that being an only-child is far more advantageous in many ways. As a matter of fact, many of the only-children interviewed in a 2005 survey by the Internet portal, Sina, insist that they revel in being the center of attention. A.J. Song, a 23-year old interviewee, states “I really appreciate [being the only-child], especially from the countryside. My parents, they give me every. I’m the center of attention in my family. [My extended family is] very jealous about me being the only child.” In contrast, families with multiple children are forced to appropriate their resources evenly among the children and thus each will receive limited support. In terms of inheritance, being the only child means he or she is entitled to receiving the full bequest. Such sentiment is expressed by Jing who says, “As I’m the only child, I don’t need to worry about [fighting for the inheritance], but if I had a sister, maybe I’d fight with her for the money.”
To sum up, the One-Child Policy starts out to address the major issue of overpopulation within China. However, as time progresses, these new generations show signs of social inability and a psychological narcissism. From my personal experience as both a single child for ten years, and then having a much younger brother, I can strongly relate to the dilemma of wanting to be the center of attention and learning to accommodate my sibling. Until I was ten-years old, I had always been the only child and received the full attention of my parents. To live up to my parents’ expectations, I became the Asian stereotype leading a life filled to the brim with endless studies and classes. When my younger brother was born, my life changed dramatically in that my parents decided to allow me to live life more freely. Suddenly, I relied less on my parents and conducted more independently. In addition, I learned practical parenting and cared for my baby brother. The process of accepting a new sibling after years of being the only child has been mostly enjoyable since I no longer carry the extraordinary burden of family honor alone. Meanwhile, I have gained a different sense of obligation in being a respectable role model to my younger brother. In short, while the only children receive more in every way, children with siblings gain every way socially and psychologically.

- Comfy Pillow

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