China has a One-Child Family policy; the rule allows married couples to have just one child or pay heavy fines. While I knew that the Chinese have a preference for boy babies over girl babies, it was amazing to see this policy in action and the ways it plays out in day-to-day life. When people learned that I have three children, and all three are boys, I felt like a bit of a celebrity. In China, it’s common to see two grandparents out with their one grandchild. The child holds a grandparents’ hand in each or his or her own, and has the undivided attention of the adults. There are no frazzled parents in stores with four whining children in tow like you see in America. But what will all those only children become—confident adults with high self-esteem or little emperors used to getting their way? All the women I met spoke openly about the Chinese preference for boys. It was just a fact. I spoke at length to a woman who is pregnant. Because she is from a different region than her husband, her mother-in-law hasn’t welcomed her to the family. My new friend’s life will be very different if she gives birth to a boy. Obviously she could find out the sex of the baby, but she hasn’t. Maybe it’s better to wait and see. And hope. When I was with her, strangers she met would tell her they hoped she has a boy. When she saw a little boy, she would rub his hair for good luck. If she has a boy, then her mother-in-law will gladly babysit and the mother will be able to work. If it’s a girl, the mother will not work and will raise the baby herself. Imagine both your career and your family life hanging in the balance based on the gender of your baby.
The Entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing
By Kate Anderson, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in China