gender imbalance

March 24th, 2007

So this article is the usual article about the gender imbalance in Asia, all the usual stuff, written in the usual paint-by-numbers style of modern Western journalism on Asia.

But I have a problem, and it’s the usual invocation of the One Child Policy:

“In rural China, where there is no pension system for 800 million people, terror of old age with no carer or pension is rampant, accentuated by the one-child system.”

What’s the problem? Well, quite simply, the One Child Policy in its strictest manifestation applies only to urban Han people. 800 million people in rural China subject to the One Child Policy? Bollocks. The restrictions vary according to location (urban vs. rural and province by province), ethnicity (Han face the tightest restrictions; other ethnic groups have more leeway) and family history.

For example, my wife has a perfectly legal younger brother, even though she was born several years after the One Child Policy was implemented. In fact, many people in her village of her generation have siblings. Why? At the time she was born, in the early ’80s, rural people were allowed two children. Even today, many rural people, even Han, are allowed a second child. One of the more distasteful exceptions to the One Child Policy is that which allows rural families a second child if the first is a girl or disabled. Well, given the historical preference for sons, that exception is an unfortunate necessity.

Alright, yes, many female foetuses are aborted and many baby girls are killed. Not denying that. I’d be a fool to try and pretend that doesn’t happen. The reasons, however, have less to do with any government policy and more to do with the traditional ideas the article mentions. Unfortunately, in China and I guess India, education in rural areas, especially the more remote areas, is rather lacking and tradition remains very strong. There are still parts of China where girls are not educated (what’s the point? she’s only going to get married, make babies, cook and clean). Infanticide happens (but often for far more complex reasons than any Western journalist is interested in), sex-selective abortion happens. The One Child Policy may contribute to some of these problems in certain circumstances, but it is not to blame, and the phrase “accentuated by the one-child system” in the quotation above attributes far more blam to the policy than is warranted.

And then at the end of the article, we have this:

“Most Chinese regimes in history, as the communists know, have been toppled from below.

Western commentators like to project China and India as economic giants effortlessly on the move. But societies that are so dysfunctional rarely sustain rapid growth or stable government for long.

There will be change. The questions are how and when?”

First of all, the journalist is right to question the coverage of China by his colleagues who focus on the economy. But is China really as dysfunctional as he claims? China has many problems, true, but I would not describe it as a dysfuntional society.

Secondly: There will be change, indeed, but has Mr Hutton not noticed the changes that are happening? It’s not all negative, some good things are happening.

Alright, I don’t mean to be an apologist, and I sure as shit don’t want to become a “useful idiot”, I’m not denying all that is wrong in this country. But sloppy, lazy journalism that misrepresents the case pisses me off. That’s all. Am I asking to much to expect journalists who write about China actually have some understanding of the place?

And on the subject of idiocy in the news: check out Taro Aso’s latest ç‹—å±?.

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