For several months, Qingdao has been flooded with propaganda posters and billboards relating to the ongoing “sanitation” 卫生 campaign, encompassing everything from tidying up (or clearing off) street markets and sidewalk BBQs to promoting food safety and healthy eating habits.
But here’s one new anti-gendercide poster from our neighbourhood bulletin board that I hadn’t seen before today, from the “Qingdao City Sanitation, Harmoniousness and Family Planning Committee” (text and overly-literal translation below):
Zònghé zhìlǐ chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ huá fù zhī gēn Comprehensively managing the birth population sex ratio is the ROOT of China’s restoration.
chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ shì guānyú zhōnghuá mínzú fányǎn shēngxī, shèngshuāi xìng bài dàshì Birth population sex ratio concerns the Chinese people’s propagation; it’s a matter of prosperity or decline, flourishing or withering.
Chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ, shì zhǐ yīdìng dìyù rénkǒu mǒu yī shíqí (tōngcháng yī nián) nèi chūshēng de nán yīng zǒngshù yǔ nǚ yīng zǒng shǔ de bǐzhí, yòng 100 míng chūshēng nǚ yīng shù xiāng duìyìng de chūshēng nán yīng shù biǎoshì. Zhèngcháng fànwéi shì měi chūshēng 100 míng nǚ yīng, nán yīng chūshēng shù zài 103-107 míng zhī jiān. Birth population sex ratio refers to the population ratio of total male babies born to total female babies born within a certain time period (usually one year), and is expressed using the figure of 100 female babies born to correspond to the number of male babies born. The normal range is within 103-107 male babies born for every 100 female babies born.
Rúguǒ chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ chíxù chāochū zhèngcháng bǐ liè fànwéi, jiāng dǎozhì rénkǒu xìngbié jiégòu shīhéng, duì jiānglái de hūnyīn hé jiātíng xíngchéng chōngjí, jìn’ér yǐngxiǎng shèhuì wěndìng yǔ héxié. If the birth population sex ratio continues to exceed normal parameters, this will lead to population sex composition unbalance, seriously affecting the future formation of marriage and family, and from that influence social stability and harmoniousness.
zhuǎnbiàn jiù de shēngyù guānniàn, ràng quán shèhuì bù zài yǒu xìngbié qíshì Transform the old childbearing notions, make the whole society no longer have gender discrimination.
Qīngdǎo shì wèishēng héxié jìhuà shēngyù wěiyuánhuì Qingdao City Health, Harmoniousness and Family Planning Committee
* * * * *
The background of the poster has an iconic Qingdao landmark (May 4th Square) and the Chinese character 女 in various styles.
Books like Leftover Women: the Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China by Leta Hong Fincher demonstrate that social stability is the government’s priority, and authorities willingly exacerbate gender inequality in pursuit of that goal, particularly through the promotion of the “leftover women” concept, which is designed to push “high-quality” women out of the workplace and into the nursery. From their perspective, skewed gender ratios and a large population of hopeless bachelors threaten social stability; gender inequality per se, not so much.
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:
Interesting little One-Child Policy anecdote this morning.
I have to teach one preschool class this “Brothers and Sisters” song. So I took a poll: Who has a brother or a sister?
They were sort of confused by the question. Lots of hands went up. But their Chinese teacher and I both knew there was no way most of them had siblings. So we specified: No no no, brothers and sisters that are your parents’ kids, not your cousins.
Unlike the large families of generations past where everyone called their relatives by specific titles denoting maternal or paternal and older or younger (in relation to themselves and/or their parents), these OCP kids grow up calling all their cousins and random kids on the playground “brother” and “sister”. Not that I can really blame them, OCP or not:
After their Chinese teacher and I weeded out all the cousins (their full-time Chinese teacher knows anyway; I could have just asked her), it turned out only four of those thirty Mainland Chinese 5-&-6-year-olds actually have a biological brother or sister.
Three new propaganda* posters just went up in our neighbourhood, courtesy of the Qingdao Spiritual Civilization Construction Committee Office (青岛市精神文明建设委员会办公室). “Create together a national civilized city!” （共创全国文明城市）.
Interestingly, they feature traditional Chinese values, classic Communist values, and a TWO-child family. All at the same time. I don’t know what to make of all that, if anything, but they caught my eye. Translation below each image.
1. Serve the People!
Serve the People!
A person’s life is finite, but, serving people is infinite,
I want to take my finite life, and throw it into the infinite service of others…
Study Lei Feng, be devoted to other people, enhance yourself
学习雷锋 奉献他人 提升自己
The Volunteer Service Principle
2. Become a moral person
Become a moral person
Kong Rong Shares Pears
(Ancient Chinese fable in which KongRong chooses the smallest pear, giving the bigger pears to his brothers. When asked why, he says the older brothers should get the bigger pears because they’re older, and that it’s his responsibility to take care of his younger brother.)
3. Advocate Civilizedness
Advocate a new civilized trend
Construct a beautiful homeland together
Love our Qingdao
*P.S. – In Chinese, the word propaganda isn’t necessarily negative like it is in English. It basically just means ‘promotion of ideas’. I think we should combine the best of both worlds: use it in all the situations Chinese does, but keep the negative English connotations. So all advertising, political and ideological messaging is propaganda.
P.P.S. – That’s not just any young revolutionary in the first poster; it’s Lei Feng of Chinese Communist mythology. For more about him, see:
…when Shanghai government officials … began encouraging young couples to have more than one child, their reaction was instant and firm: No way.
Wang … said she wants an only child because she was one herself: “We were at the center of our families and used to everyone taking care of us. We are not used to taking care of and don’t really want to take care of others.”
Chen Zijian … put it more bluntly. For the dual-career, middle-class parents … it’s about being successful enough to be selfish. Today’s 20- and 30-somethings grew up seeing their parents struggle … and don’t want that kind of life for themselves, he said.
In Canada the Province of British Columbia gave us a free CD with a hippie/new-age reading of a poem for infants about how “YOU. Are a chiiiiild of the UUUNiverse…”. In Tianjin our friends who had their baby here got this free bib with a One Child Policy slogan on it:
“Fewer births, scientific and healthier births, lifelong happiness”
or “Fewer and better births make your life happier”
or “Few births, scientifically bearing children, happiness for whole life”
shǎo shēng yōushēng, xìngfú yìshēng
Abortion in China is legal, widely available and accessible, doesn’t carry near the stigma and controversy that it does in North America, and is apparently the most common method of gender-selective infanticide in China. But I’d assumed that China’s gender gap was slowly shrinking because I’d assumed that the authorities would deal effectively with the well-known “gendercide” issue (gender-selective abortion is illegal). So I was surprised to read in this AP report that China’s youngest generation has the largest gender gap:
“The study found that the biggest boy-girl gaps are in the 1 to 4-year-old group — meaning that China will have to grapple with the effects of that imbalance when those children reach reproductive age in 15 to 20 years.
Ratios in Jiangxi and Henan provinces were the highest in the country, with 140 boys for every 100 girls in the 1-4 age range, the study said.”