Tuesday, January 15, 2013

According to My Made-in-China Crystal Ball

Sometimes a crystal ball is not needed to have a glimpse of the future.

A study made by an Australian university could mean  a world dominated either by aggressors or by pacifists.

Little Emperors: Behavioral Impact of China's One-Child Policy in 1979,  authored by Lisa Cameron and Xin Men, compared children born before the policy was instituted and those after.

According to the study, children born after the policy was issued and strictly enforced (there were allegedly cases of forced sterilization) were found to be less trusting, less cooperative, less risk-taking and less conscientious  and more pessimistic compared to those born prior to China's initiative to curb its run-away population growth.

The findings are not surprising. Parents tend to pamper and over protect their lone progeny, who are more likely to  turn into emotionally stunted and socially hampered adults than children with siblings -- although, according to Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, American singletons are not the same as those in China because of the culture mix in the US.

 Kluger wrote that  sibling-less American kids "grow up in a culture with a whole mix of family types, who learn that whatever extra pampering they get from their parents is not what all kids get, and that they’re no more entitled to privilege than anyone else."

Chinese teachers and employers interviewed by Fortune Magazine in 2004 complained that children of the One-Child Policy are not resilient.  The kids fail to learn how to "eat bitterness" or adjust to disappointment and frustration.

An article released in The Atlantic, said that Chinese children with no siblings "appeared neurotic" -- perhaps the reason why some employers in China reportedly refuse to hire One-Child policy children and indicate so in announcements of job openings.

With people numbering 1.3 billion, China tops the list of the 10 most populated countries on earth for 2012 (  India lands solidly in second with 1.2 billion people.

Among China's claim to fame -- aside from the invention of paper, the compass, printing, and gunpowder -- is its cheap labor.  In between playing ping-pong and practicing dazzling acrobatic moves, the Chinese manufactures or assembles practically all that we see these days on the shelves of Wal-Mart.

China lent "people power"  -- a term coined when Filipinos unseated Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s -- an entirely new meaning which  propelled China into the economic power it is now.  China's  human capital is responsible for making practically everything we use daily -- from  coffee cups in the mornings to  toothbrushes in the evenings.

Though inventive, the Chinese may have unwittingly been short-sighted in instituting and strictly enforcing its one-child policy. Projections indicate that by 2050 China's population would remain pegged at its 2012 level while India's will rise to 1.7 billion.

China's population, while no longer increasing, will be graying. Lesser births mean a decreasing number of young people and more older ones, as a percentage of the population.

Given the projected change in demographics,  the implication is clear.  A decrease in the labor force could mean a corresponding decline in national output thereby denting the continuity of China's position as an economic power. We might eventually find ourselves using coffee cups and toothbrushes made in India.

Now here's the scary part. Given the study done by Cameron and Men, China's economic and political fate could likely end up in the hands  of offshoots of The One-Child Policy, who are used to instant gratification and think that the universe revolves entirely around them.

Doddering grandpas and grandmas might find themselves compelled to man assembly lines and factories up to when they could no longer stand on their feet. There could be even lesser tolerance for dissent. Whatever limited rights and liberties currently exist could be severely cut. Another concern would be the ability of the political leadership to  work with that of other countries and be rational in their view of world issues.

But wait. There just might be hope. India's ascendance to the position of most populated country on earth could also mean an increase in  influence world-wide. Most everything Indian could be popular, including spirit-centered philosophies.

China may have  possibly more  "unstable"  people by 2050 but  the neurotic might turn out congenial enough to greet each morning with calming  chants of the OM-Shanti mantra  and sufficiently "enlightened"  to practice tantra at night. Not even Freud can beat that.

There is hope for the world after all!

Photo depicts the flags of China and India. Courtesy of The China Times
  - Ariel Murphy


  1. i dont worry about it. a flu outbreak can mercifully wipe out elderly & weak or infirmed populous in a matter of weeks, if not in days. many problems would be discretely solved. watch and see it happen now.

  2. Very informative - liked your analysis :-)