About the “Little Emperors”

Anyone who reads the newspapers or even watches the international part of the evening news is aware of China’s “one-child policy.” Whatever you make think of the policy, it has been very effective at very rapidly curbing the growth of China’s population. It also produced a very large population bulge (meaning a large number of young people enter the workforce in a 30 year period when they are not having as many children, hence they have few seniors and few dependents to provide for) which is a major structural factor in China’s rapid economic growth.

An added impact of the “one-child policy” has been the creation of a generation of only-children. In the context of rising wealth (akin to what happened in our baby boomer generation), parents have given their children the goods things in life they mostly were unable to enjoy. Arguably this has given birth to a generation of spoiled “Little Emperors.”

Demographically it only makes sense that “Little Emperors” would emerge when the family structure went from having large families to small nuclear ones in a single generation. Hence it is not uncommon to have four grandparents and two parents doting on a single child. Naturally with this much attention lavished upon him/her one would expect the child to develop a sense of entitlement.

We should not, however, believe that life is a candy shop for these only-children. If being the sole focus of attention means being showered with gifts and pampered, it also means the hopes, dreams and indeed financial future of the family rides on their shoulders. There are no brothers or sisters to take up the slack. If junior fails, the whole family is worse off. Hence these children are under enormous pressure to succeed academically. Academic success is still – although there are rumors and stirrings of reform – determined almost entirely by performance on standardized tests taken before high school (at age 14-15) and before university (at age 17-18). Little Emperors must score in the highest rankings if they are to place into elite (and therefore capable of training for the next exams) schools or universities.

One can only imagine the pressure placed on a 17 year old who knows their performance on a single test (the three-day Gao Kao University Entrance Exam).

That all being said, having Little Emperor’s in one’s class is not the most enjoyable situation. You can usually spot the would-be trouble makers. For some reason they were often a little bit overweight….

For strategies for dealing with “Little Emperors” and other trouble makers, tune in next time, same bat time, same bat channel…


About redguide2010

While living in China's Guizhou Province I fell in love with the China, and travel more generally. I became especially enamored with the batik art of the Miao/Hmong and Buyi minorities. This love affair filled me with the desire to share this art form and the history, and travel foibles of China, with the world. For Batiks, check this out: http://myworld.ebay.com/guizhoumarket I lived in China for more than 3 years doing work as an English teacher, translator, and political economist. In the course of these jobs I had the opportunity to see not only the Southwest (Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan) I called home but also to spend time on business in the megacities of Beijing, Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta. In my experience, even the most modern, industrial and seemingly bland concrete jungle contains a wealth of history and cultural experience - for those willing to scratch the surface. Let's take a peek together!
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