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APD Campus Reporter|
For Yuan Lizhen, a migrant worker from southeastern China's Jiangxi province, her first month as a newsstand owner in Shenzhen was not as easy as it seemed.
“I need to work at this newsstand for as long as 13 hours, but I’m still not sure how much money I would get for my monthly salary,” the 31-year-old said. “The most important thing is that I always miss my son back at home.”
Yuan’s little son, taken care of by his grandparents, goes to kindergarten in their hometown as Yuan and her husband go out for work. For the out-migrating couple, earning enough money for the child’s tuition fees, as well as the long-awaited family reunion, could be much more significant than the country’s latest shift from the decades-long family planning regulations to a universal two-child policy.
The policy change came in the form of a brief announcement issued by the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee: All couples will be allowed to have two children to help address the challenge of an aging population in the contemporary society.
According to a communiqué released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the relaxation of the national fertility policy is intended to promote a balanced population development and achieve the long-erm development of the Chinese nation.
Yuan is a member of China’s post-80s generation or Balinghou, referring to the cohort born between 1980 and 1989. Those young adults have grown up amid the country’s strong push of the basic state policy of family planning, entirely within a new era of reforming and opening up.
As the second child of her family, Yuan said she was very lucky to receive the same treatment and caring as her elder brother in a society traditionally favouring male heirs, but her birth indeed cost her parents the downgrade of their pay scale as a punishment of breaching the previous national policy.
“In fact, I don’t have many personal views on the change of policy as I never get a higher education,” Yuan said. “But I don’t intend to give birth to a second child unless I am pregnant once again or my parents insist me to do so.”
“Bringing a child into the world requires you to have a large sum of money. Eating. Drinking. Clothing. Housing. Education. Everything. You must earn lots of money to guarantee your kids a decent life,” she said with a sigh.
Chen Chen, an interior designer living in China’s eastern coastal province Jiangsu, gave a similar answer when asked about her intention to have another child. She said that she does not want to deliver a second child after giving birth to her daughter last year, despite the fact that the country has abandoned the 35-year-old family planning policy, allowing two kids for all couples.
Chen herself is a typical “single child” who was born in the 1980s and grow up in an environment where the family planning policy has been strictly enforced. Now her life has been characterized by the pressure of a 4-2-1 structure: four grandparents and two parents being supported by one child.
“I fully understand the pressure and helplessness of being the only child of a family, but it does not mean I would prefer having two children simply because of the policy change,” Chen said. “I need to take many factors into consideration, such as my physical condition, financial capability, life planning and even career path.”
In 1989, Tong was born as the third child of his family, and his birth left his parents jobless before paying for a penalty of several thousand yuan. Apart from that, the family found it rather difficult to register Tong’s birth and have a document to prove his legal identity – the Chinese hukou (household register), without which the child would be prevented from obtaining state education beyond primary level.
Students of Beijing Petroleum College Affiliated Elementary School come home from school at 4:30 p.m. The Chinese government announced on Oct. 29, 2015, that it will abolish the country's decades-old one-child policy and allow all couples to have two children. Photo by Chris Wei
Cao Li, a doctoral student studying at China University of Mining and Technology in Beijing, also said that she would rather have two children than only one child in her family. Cao feels good towards the one-child policy change and said that she would “seize the marvellous opportunity.”
Cao was born in northern China’s Shanxi province in 1988, and spent a happy childhood with her two sisters, which has made her inclined to a family with more children. As her parents are local officials with a high level of social status, the family has never been subjected to any kind of punishment or penalty due to violations of the family planning restrictions.
“Compared with those ‘single’ children who grow up by themselves, living together with siblings could give you a chance to learn how to share with others and shoulder wider familial responsibilities,” Cao said with a smile. “That’s the reason why I would like to have two children after marriage, and the recent policy change is exactly what I hope for.”
Cao’s schoolfellow Cheng Ruisheng expressed his preference for having two children in the future as well. Born in 1987, Cheng is the only child of his family and one child families are commonplace in his hometown Shandong, an eastern Chinese province on the Yellow Sea.
“I would not let my children experience the same kind of loneliness as me during their growing process,” Cheng said. “Through my struggle and efforts, I have self-confidence to overcome all the difficulties and provide my children with prosperous living conditions.”
As for Yuan Lizhen working and living in Shenzhen, the country’s fertility policy change and the announcement issued in the capital seemed so far away, as far as the distance between her son and herself. But sometimes she may wonder whether it would be better if her son could have a younger brother or sister to play with.
“I cannot afford a second child economically,” she said. “But if I were pregnant once again, I would give birth to the child without hesitation. In that way, my children could keep each other company, thereby not missing their parents so much.” Enditem