This is not an extract from Li’s book, The New Chinese, but it is such an important development in recent Chinese history that I thought it deserved its own post. There are plenty of accurately researched articles about the policy’s history and about how it was/is implemented that can be easily found; this article will be more a gathering of threads together to explore what the One-Child Policy, and the recent revoking of it into a Two-Child Policy, means in an Australian context.
There’s a lot of babies in this chapter. I myself am not overly fond of newborns (I’m told my opinion will change when my friends or I start having children. I’ll wait to believe it.) but it seems that China, between 1949 and 1979, was. If you’ve ever wondered what was happening to China’s population when the one-child-policy was bought in, here’s the breakdown according to Li:
If you haven’t heard the ‘Chinese G X’ term before, don’t worry. It’s one made up by author Barry Li to describe the generation of mainland Chinese born between 1966 and 1976. This period of ten years is significant in Chinese history for being the years of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution is something I know bits and pieces of, and have tried to comprehend as a whole; if you’re like me and are maybe not quite familiar with its concept and policies don’t worry, my last blog briefly tracks through some of its ambitions and policies.
I’m taking a quick side-step on my discussion of Barry Li’s book The New Chinese: How They Are Changing Australia to briefly discuss the Cultural Revolution. This event, from 1966 – 1976 is significant in the lives of the next two generations Li covers in this chapter – those of the Chinese Gen X and the Chinese Baby Boomers. Understanding the way in which the Cultural Revolution shaped the lives and mindset of millions of Chinese is important in understanding how they act today, and the manner of influence they have on the younger generation. Continue reading
80后 hòu is the Chinese term used to describe someone born between 1980 and 1989. This is the generation that Barry Li, author of The New Chinese, belongs to. This is a generation of a rapidly changing environment from post Cultural Revolution to technology, infrastructure and an opening up to the West.
Li describes growing up in Suzhou (China’s version of Oldtown from Westeros) with his great-aunt and his cousin (who really was actually the daughter of his grandmother’s adopted daughter. Complicated. For all intents and purposes, he calls her his sister, which is the done thing among the one-child generations. It used to confuse me a lot when students I used to teach in Beijing would tell me of their multiple brothers and sister; for a long time I thought it was just an English error they were making.) Continue reading
There are plenty of things being done and still more about the frustration Barry Li shares about homeownership in his book The New Chinese: How They Are Changing Australia.
Foreign homeownership has been an element at the heart of the debate over Australian housing market price increases. The Chinese are regularly blamed for the price hike, purportedly pushing new owners out of the competition, and rising rental prices for lack of availability.
Local Chinese families aren’t immune either, unable to compete with Chinese buyers who are helped by “their entire family, who [have] a lifetime of savings in their pocket boosted by the economic boom”. Continue reading
“’Rich’ and ‘poor’ are relative terms, of course. Australians are unlikely to meet Chinese people who are living below the poverty threshold. Such people do not have enough money to travel here for a holiday or to study, and they certainly do not have the money to invest in Australian property. In this sense, all the Chinese people you meet in Australia are rich.”
Rich Chinese. Have any two words gone together more smoothly before in the Australian accent? The two seem inseparable while the alternative – Poor Chinese; spoiler alert for the next extract – is an oxymoron. This transcript from a conversation at an Aussie BBQ is about as authentic as it gets:
“Hey, Dazza mate, who bought the big house down the road?”
“Yeah, nah mate, dunno. Probably Chinese.”
The next excerpt from Barry Li’s The New Chinese is part history part statistics. Let’s just say outright that the numbers he provides from 2010 – 60 million native Cantonese speakers, 365 million native English speakers (one million for every day of the year!), and 960 million native Mandarin speakers – are incomprehensibly scary. How does the number of native English speakers from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and all the others not even match half that of Mandarin speakers? If there were 960 million native French speakers in the world, Continue reading