One of our many crowd control sand castles at Qingdao’s 石老人 beach: Turns out that building a anti-social sand castles is not the most effective way to keep the overly-curious, camera-happy, Chinese public off your kids at the beach. The sand castles help, but the best way to shield your kids from strangers’ unwanted attention is to go to the beach with your Chinese friends. For whatever reasons, when we’re at the beach with a Chinese family or two, strangers pretty much leave us alone. And it requires a lot less digging.
The other night I was sharing beer-in-a-bag （散啤）, peanuts and tiny dried shrimps with our neighbourhood’s convenience store owner to celebrate his son’s 100th day outside the womb （百岁）. He said his family is supposed to pay RMB 100,000 as a fine for having a second child in violation of China’s One Child Policy （计划生育政策）. We estimated that works out to USD 14,286, but it’s actually higher: 16,141.92 USD (we calculated at 7元/$1 at the time). But there are a couple details that make this extra interesting.
First, $16,142 is a relatively low fine. These fines are calculated according to the father’s hukou （户口）, his registered place of residence, not their current location. He’s from a village, so he has a rural hukou, and that means his fine is less. A Qingdao city native would be fined more than double. (China’s hukou system has a long historical tradition, functioning to control population mobility, i.e. keeping peasants tied to their land and out of the cities.)
Second, because they’re officially classed as “peasants”, if their first child had been female then they wouldn’t be fined for having a second child. But because their first child was a boy, a second child is not allowed. Urbanites aren’t afforded this concession.
Third, they don’t intend to pay. In their situation at least, their kid still gets a hukou and can access social services like school and health care even though they haven’t paid. He says they get calls every day badgering them to pay, but they’re betting that in a year or two China will further loosen the One Child Policy, so they’re going to drag their feet as much as possible. Last year China eased the One Child Policy slightly in response to the looming demographic time-bomb it created (disproportionately large elderly population); couples where one spouse is a single child may have two children. He says he thinks they’ll loosen it further, effectively exempting them from their fine.More encounters with China’s One Child Policy: