Chinese families, baby boy or baby girl?

The Great Wall of China
During Chinese class our laoshi (teacher), along with teaching us the mysteries of her ancient language, gives us also little pearls of oriental wisdom and precious information about China's culture and society.

Last week we studied how to approach people, introduce ourselves and ask for others' names. In China there is the unspoken rule that you cannot ask directly for the personal name if a person is older than you or in a higher position: in this case, you will need to politely ask for the family name.

At this juncture, laoshi told us about the controversial topic of Chinese people preferring to have a baby boy instead of a girl.

As in most countries, also in China the new-born takes his/her father's family name, so in order to keep the name alive through the future generations, when women learnt they were expecting a baby girl, they would have an abortion.

Truth be said, in the (recent) past also in Italy having a baby boy was much preferred, to the extent that when I was born and my grandmother learnt I was a girl, with a hint of disappointment, told my mother just recovering from the birth: "'s ok too...".

While in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai this practice has disappeared, in other parts of China, especially rural areas in the 1970s and 1980s when the country faced the biggest poverty of modern times, it had started becoming too common.

This has led the Chinese government to come up with a drastic plan: it is now illegal for new parents to check on the sex of the baby. This way women won't get an abortion and the awkward situation of having a nation made only of men will be avoided.

In addition, due to the boom that made China's population reach the figure of 1.3 billion people, the government has adopted the two-child policy, meaning that a family can only have two children, after that the mother can be sterilised or, in case of a third child, the parents would get fined.

This applies only for Chinese people: the law, in fact, exempts from this rule the minorities such as Mongolian and Tibetan that, *because* minorities, have the right to have as many children as they wish.

I was pleased to learn that in China women keep their own family name and don't take their husband's one, as it happens for example in the UK. "We must thank Mao for giving us this power," told us our laoshi in a burst of national pride. I have to agree, in addition to avoiding all the hassle of changing the name in ID papers, I wouldn't be very willing to give up the name my father gave me.


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