between what you might think is true and what is actually true about
contemporary China may be great.
The “one child”
policy forces every Chinese family to have only one child.
policy is called “birth-planning” or family planning, which encourages, not
forces, each couple to have one child. Later (marriage), longer (intervals
between births) and fewer (children) are the official slogan.
In China the old
saying “heaven is high and the emperor is far away” rules. The implementation
of the policy is up to the local government. Some local officials, in order to
be promoted based on their achievements in controlling population growth, used
draconian measures such as forced abortion, especially in the 1980s and early
1990s. Such practices are against the law. Recently, a local official in
Shandong province was fired and demanded to apologize to a woman and her family
for forcing her to have a late-term abortion.
There are many
exceptions to the so-called “one child” policy. The policy has an uneven
implementation, which tends to be more lax in rural and minority areas. Some
local governments turn a blind eye to how many children you have since the
fines for “extra” children are part of the local revenue. Additionally, if both
the husband and wife are the only child from their respective families, the
couple is automatically eligible for two children.
More than 30
years of family planning has reduced the Chinese population by 400 million. The
average fertility rate is 1.6 nationally and significantly lower in big cities
(only 0.7 in Shanghai). Many couples just want one child because of rising
living costs. DINK (double income no kids) families are growing. The
abolishment of the “one child” policy has been discussed in China, but most
people seem to accept current practices. The phasing out of the policy is
unlikely to lead to an unwanted baby boom in China.
China is an
atheist state with no religions permitted in the country.
Party members are required to be atheists, but the Chinese Constitution
protects freedom of religious belief. All major world religions have millions
of followers in China.
historical and political reasons, the Vatican has maintained diplomatic
relations with the Republic of China in Taiwan, with no official ties with the
Beijing government. But this has not prevented millions of Chinese Catholics
from following the pope. Even many CCP members privately follow one of the main
religions. In addition to government-sanctioned churches, many more followers
attend house churches.
There has been a
boom in Christianity in China. According to Li Fan, a leading Chinese scholar
of religion, there are more than 100 million Christians in China now — more
than CCP members. Death of the communist ideology and decline of traditional
culture have led to the rapid growth of religions, especially Christianity.
Christmas is not an official holiday, but it is often celebrated more fervently
than Chinese holidays by young people.
Largely due to a
healthy diet and lifestyle, the Chinese are slim and fit.
The Chinese are
wealthier now but not necessarily healthier. According to the World Health
Organization, for those ages 15 and older in China, 45 percent of males and 32
percent of females were overweight, or an average of 38.5 percent of the 2010
population. This is a huge increase from the 2002 statistic of 25 percent.
China used to be
“the kingdom of bicycles.” Bicycles were a major tool in people’s daily life
including riding to and from work. Now China has become the world’s largest
auto market, and the number of vehicles and motorcycles has grown exponentially
in the past two decades. The public transportation system has greatly improved
as well, so fewer people ride bicycles today. The waistlines of many Chinese
are growing as Western fast foods flood China. KFC already has more than 4,000
restaurants and McDonald’s, nearly 2,000; both are expanding in China by adding
a few hundred more establishments each year.
Old habits die
hard. Despite the government’s efforts to ban it in public places, smoking is
widespread, especially among rural males. One third of the world’s smokers are
in China. The highly lucrative tobacco industry is a major source of revenue
for many local governments. As a result of smoking and severe air pollution,
respiratory diseases are among the top killers of the Chinese.
The Chinese have
negative views of America and Americans.
literally means “beautiful country” in Chinese. For most Chinese people,
America equals freedom and democracy and remains “a shining city upon a hill.”
Generations of Chinese have yearned for American types of dreams. According to
the Institute of International Education, in the 2011–12 academic year, more
than 194,000 Chinese students were studying on U.S. campuses, accounting for a
quarter of all international students in the United States.
some Chinese are dissatisfied with certain American policies. There are “fen
qing” (angry youth) who tend to blame the United States for every foreign
policy problem China experiences, but they do not form the mainstream thinking.
differences in history, values and political systems, the United States and
China will inevitably have conflicting interests. But so far, the two countries
have managed this complex relationship remarkably well. China, just like the
United States, prefers cooperation to confrontation in the bilateral relationship.
elites, including the top leaders, have sent their children to study and live
in the United States for a better environment and education. Ironically, the
United States is also a safe haven for corrupt Chinese officials to launder
illicit money and transfer their wealth out of China.
With the world’s
second-largest economy, China will replace the United States as the dominant
According to the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China’s per capita GDP
stood at about $5,400 in 2011 and ranked below 90 among 188 nations. By
comparison, the IMF ranks the United States at No. 6. Though some well-to-do
Chinese are approaching or even surpassing middle class Americans in wealth, it
will be decades before ordinary Chinese enjoy the same quality of life as
A narrow focus
on GDP growth has led to many problems in China, such as environmental issues.
China will remain a developing country with tremendous domestic challenges for
a long time to come.
double-digit growth of its defense budget, China’s weapons system is at least a
generation behind that of the U.S. military. According to the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute, China’s military expense in 2012 was
about one fifth that of the United States (the U.S. spent $711 billion; China,
$143 billion). With a policy of “peaceful rise,” China does not intend to
challenge the U.S. dominance, and it benefits from the current international
system. In the near future, China will be free-riding as the United States
continues to play the leadership role in international affairs.