*APAC Heritage Month* Coming of Age: One Child Policy
We'll be discussing the impact of the One Child Policy, from the level of what it's like from a personal point of view to the macro impact on society and culture.
Hello Cloudflare TV. I'm Fallon Blossom, Senior Strategic Programs Manager on the Cloudflare TV team and I'm so excited to kick off our month-long celebration of Asian heritage and culture.
We've worked with Asian Flair and Desi Flair, two employee resource groups here at Cloudflare designed to support folks with Asian descent and their allies to amplify Asian voices all month on Cloudflare TV.
Today I'm with Jade and Albert and they're two members of Asian Flair and we're going to talk about the one child policy and its impact.
So thank you both for joining me today.
How y'all doing? Pretty good. Happy Monday. Yes, we're starting the week strong.
So tell me more about what you do for Cloudflare and how you're involved in Asian Flair, the ERG.
So I'm Jade, I'm in the Austin office and I run the Cloudflare for Startups program.
I also run a show called Founder Focus where I interview startup founders and I started along with my colleague Stanley, we started the Asian Flair ERG a little over a year ago.
I'm Albert, I work on the product team for workers as the workers community manager also in the Austin office and did not know Jade started Asian Flair but it's cool we're all here.
Thank you both. So tell me a little bit about how y'all have been impacted by this policy.
So I'm an only child.
I was born in Shanghai. All of my cousins are only children. Basically everyone who is in my generation band is an only child but my parents and that generation has many siblings.
How about you Albert? I did a reverse version of you.
I am not an only child but I moved to Shanghai when I was around 10 years old and grew up there and saw the only children and how it was weird I had a little brother but no one else had siblings.
Okay so I want to also level set for our audience.
You know I didn't really honestly admittedly know much about this until we kind of decided to do this chat.
So for folks who might not know about this policy or haven't been introduced to it can you kind of give a primer on what it is, what it means, when it started.
Yeah I believe it started in the late 70s.
I have a cousin who was born in 1979 who was kind of among the the early crop of kids to be limited to a one-child policy.
Prior to that it was there was sort of a two-child policy but it was not strictly enforced and so people didn't really didn't follow it very closely but then thereonward basically if you have you know you once a family has one child they are at least one of the parents is expected to either have an IUD planted or undergo some kind of surgery to prevent basically as a contraceptive.
But in the in the city areas it's it was strictly one child but if you're in a rural area for instance on a family farm where you may need extra hands on deck there were exceptions.
For instance you get two kids if you are rural and then if you are an ethnic minority you also get two.
And then there are sort of these edge cases like there are there are ethnic minority cultures that don't have the concept of marriage in their culture.
So then the limit is three kids per woman.
Wow so it's it was flexible in how it was applied.
Did that change over time? What does the policy kind of look like now because that was the 70s that was a bit ago?
Is it still being applied now? And the other wondering I have is is this localized to China specifically?
So in the so nowadays so my cousins who are all only children the the law has changed to a true child policy.
So if both parents are both only children then they are allowed to have two.
And then there were some and then there are some ethnic minorities where they were previously not very heavily enforced to have two but now it is more strictly enforced that everyone has to follow the same rules and that has been controversial in a lot of places.
A lot of I believe I had looked it up briefly that there are a lot of other countries that have had two child policies and how strictly they were enforced has been very variable.
But but having a two child policy is not that uncommon but the the extent to which they have been most countries have not really strictly enforced those kinds of policies.
Okay well can you tell me or discuss a little bit more about like okay so there's this aspect of it where like population control managing resources allocation again we know that in our various roles and how important that is.
But I'm curious about the societal or the cultural impacts.
Albert can you speak to kind of what you've seen both of you have actually lived and experienced living in China?
What does that look like societally culturally?
Yeah it's a very uneven society when it comes to gender breakdowns.
Jay did an amazing job explaining how it was enforced.
I think the fact that the one child policy was enforced you get just different stories of people growing up and leads to a lot of gender dynamics I saw in China where women were actually encouraged to attend school and because you only have one you had this idea you got to support your family and women killed it.
Like it's very common in Shanghai to see in a workplace a pretty even distribution even though across the country demographics are there still men and women which we can get into.
Have you noticed anything? Yeah I mean there had been culturally in the old days and still in some parts of rural areas a preference for families to have boys over girls.
But when you can only have a small number of children it kind of forces the family to basically invest fully in the small number of children that they can have.
Just speaking to my parents generation, they were the youngest of four kids.
They didn't get a lot of attention. The parent teacher conferences that my dad had at school, his older brother went and signed his report card.
His parents just didn't have enough time and attention to allocate over all the kids.
But that's really changed for my cousin's generation growing up.
Now have you noticed any change in the number of children that folks have had since you know this policy moved from one to two?
Are folks having two children more often?
Oh all of my cousins are having two or planning to have two. And in fact there is talk about that the policy is over corrected and they had the policy for too long in place and they want to get it up to three just because they had over corrected a generation prior.
But people aren't really willing to have three these days.
Mainly because it's you know the attitudes in that generation have changed. It's the amount of attention that my grandparents spent on my parents generation like average per child is no longer considered socially acceptable.
My cousins growing up and my cousins who have grown up and are having their own kids, there is a sort of arms race of how much you can invest per child.
And this starts with you know like classes that they bring their kids to before they start preschool.
It starts and it has you know there's expensive classes that they send their kids to that are extracurriculars outside of school.
And you don't want to and there's this there's an intense social pressure that we here in the U.S.
don't experience which is you don't want to be the only parent in your peer group who doesn't send their kid to this class.
Because then you would be putting your kid at a disadvantage and these are the only kids you have.
So you wouldn't want to disadvantage your kids.
And so it feels like a social requirement to spend on all of these extra classes for your kids.
And then and so the default thought is wow raising each child is really expensive how can I possibly have a third.
Right again the vestiges and the legacy of that culture has kind of bled over into something that was again based on my research was intended really to just be for one generation right.
Did I understand that properly? Well they I mean there was there's the idea that you know it was really hard to turn the economy around if everyone had to it was it was really hard to gain an engine for economic growth if half of your population was spending all of their time raising kids.
And that population growth was going to you know immediately eat away all of the technological gains that the society got.
And so if you got the population to be stable for just one generation you could call you could you know you could train the new generation for higher level jobs and have basically be on a higher gear as a society.
That's related to that Malthusian trap that we were trying to talk about when we get ready for it.
Okay all right I'm like yeah it's not me. Okay so I think folks have a good idea of the policy now we hope.
We've talked about kind of what it looks like in China.
I want to kind of bring this you know conversation along the diaspora here to the United States.
So what does that look like once you know you're someone from Asia you come here or in Albert your case you're in the U.S.
and you kind of go back. How did that translate throughout the diaspora?
Albert can you kick us off with you know your experience with that? Yeah it's crazy because I didn't really grow up thinking I was Asian.
Like English is my first language and then when I went back I realized how bad my Chinese was and even though my parents like no worries you're gonna blend in just fine.
The moment I spoke with the taxi driver ordered something from Chinese McDonald's I'd be exposed right away.
And I think the way this sort of ties into the one child policy is you know in the U.S.
you're just encouraged to have kids and we're still dealing with gender stereotypes whereas in Shanghai and Jade can also touch on this too it was being designated for a while by the Chinese government as more of like a special economic zone where it was easier to emphasize on companies coming in creating jobs and women were being pushed to be educated as I mentioned before.
So I came here and I just saw like really ambitious people across the gender spectrum and it gave me this idea that people weren't really interested in having kids after they started a professional life they just wanted to have a professional life at least in Shanghai.
Rural areas are touched differently. Yeah that's also been my you know I guess I can only speak to Shanghai which is you know the culture that I'm from but it you know my parents my mom earned more than my dad when I was born and in our culture that's normal.
My you know my mom got higher test scores than my dad and that's something that's that continues to be bragged about by my grandfather for years and years and years.
Like her you know standardized test scores were higher than like reporters who reported to my grandfather and so he just like brags about his daughter-in-law and there's you know it's not unusual for women to out earn their spouses.
It's also not unusual for families to have very equitable distribution of labor within the household especially in Shanghai.
The norm what's considered normal in Shanghai tradition is men do the cooking and cleaning and the grocery shopping and women do everything related to kids whether that's meeting with teachers, figuring out schools and extra classes, figuring out whether your kid needs a tutor, helping them with homework and also sort of the paperwork aspect of the household.
So like accounting and investing and you know like all of like doing taxes and like keeping things organized is also a typical woman's domain and so household tasks tend to be sort of split that way and it ends up being a fairly even load.
Like all of my all of my uncles are the chefs of the household.
No one cares. It's not bad at that. And it's pretty common too if you walk down the street in Shanghai you see like a young family the dad is like carrying all the baby stuff he's got like a fanny pack wearing it unironically and feeding and changing.
Yeah it's much more distributed the way people view household chores and at least in Shanghai.
I think in rural areas it's a little different because economic opportunities are different and if you have farm labor it's going to be designated more from families there to sons and then the more like traditional stereotypes of gender kind of fall back a bit.
Yeah I think a lot of it has to do with earning potential and you kind of see it play out in in sort of mate selection in the generation after because you know in Shanghai like people expect I mean the the parents who are heavily influential in their children's mate selection do care a great deal about their earning potential and you don't see like a lot of you don't really see this play out as much in the U .S.
or in the diaspora but like as you know even when my mom was youthful like her earning potential was her earning potential and career growth opportunities were were an important part of what made her attractive.
The intersection of class and this policy impacts how it might be applied or enforced and how it kind of plays out over time even when you leave China is basically kind of what I'm hearing.
Right well like you know there's there's sort of these attitudes that sort of end up coming with the diaspora certainly in my family or like it's and a lot of the Shanghainese families that we got to know once we were in the U.S.
they were all dual earning the gender dynamics at home where they were an equitable distribution of labor.
There was another Shanghainese family who I knew who the mom did all the the yard labor around the like the outside of the house.
She actually used to be a pro athlete and so and her husband was a medical doctor and he did all the cooking and cleaning inside the house and and of course she she was in she was responsible for helping her kid with homework and whatnot.
Yeah that is a very interesting kind of unintended result of you know.
It just becomes normalized you know like it changes your expectation of what is normal in terms of what gender dynamics are like it's normal growing up that my dad did all the dishes.
My dad was in my family my dad is a particularly unskilled chef and so and so the and so the the paperwork aspect of the household went to him so he'd have to do all the taxes and and sort of the boring paperwork stuff.
So that was not my mom's job anymore because she did the cooking.
I can take him to come and do mine. How about you Albert growing up like what were your parents dynamics like and how was that impacted?
Yeah both my folks went to college in the U.S. eventually but my dad studied computer science so eventually he just kind of like took care of all of us and my mom like naturally took over more of the household stuff.
But it was so common within like their friend groups that there would be like dual income stuff happening.
I remember this one conversation that it was it was in the U .S.
and there were a couple of families present including another Shanghainese family in the U.S.
and the the mom of the other family had said to my mom you have to teach my husband how to make these like make these make this kind of dumpling filling.
I would love to have these at home and my and then we and I had another friend present who who was you know not Asian and from the U.S.
who was like you know like that exact conversational interchange feels like the gender-flipped version of what a 1950s household in the U .S.
would have said at a social gathering. Your chef needs to talk to my chef because this fantastic right and then when you think about class right again this all this stuff is really interesting and super fascinating about like how it kind of plays out.
One other wondering that I had about again like bringing it through the diaspora is you know once folks come to the United States are they having more children if they are of childbearing age?
Are they coming here and saying actually okay yeah let's let's keep the party going is that something that happens?
Albert do you want to start? I don't have any data about that.
Personal experience. I guess personally my parents had two kids so me and my brother I think yeah it probably encourages a bit more also the economic mobility for immigrants from Asia who actually get to stay and usually they come from more educated backgrounds then it encourages the capacity for them to have kids.
I should add though if my mom was making more than my dad my dad would be in the kitchen making sandwiches so it's definitely yeah a thing that diaspora brings over this like whoever it's like this idea of working as a unit rather than playing a team strategy.
Yeah I mean I feel like that's also a larger cultural trend of playing a team strategy kind of having been there predating the one child policy.
When my parents came here they had a conversation about having another kid but I you know I'm an only child and they did not decide to have another one mainly because at the time that they were having that discussion they did not feel like they were economically established enough that they felt comfortable having another kid that they could provide for two kids at the level that they wanted to and as a result I did not ever get a sibling.
I mean I'm the oldest of six I you can have one of mine yeah just I mean yeah I'm planning to have at most two myself so yeah I was gonna ask I'm like are there any thoughts have either of you you know thought about this in your own personal life not to put you on the spot but to put you on the spot.
I can't imagine having well I can imagine having more than two but I feel like there is a sort of aspect of like I don't feel like I want the adults to be outnumbered by the children.
Strategy. Yes. How about you Albert?
Have you thought about kids? No it's not my decision honestly.
It doesn't want kids I'm not gonna have kids but I am yeah we're really not super rushed at the moment either.
I do see yeah being outnumbered by a colony of your own spawn is really tiring.
No diss to the parents out there. No I'm messing with you I'm messing with you I'm sure your average parent on a rough day you know has some special words for their kids but we all love them very much.
Um so okay I'm now I'm still curious about any other like lasting cultural effects of this policy.
So we kind of talked about the difference between you know the city and the country we talked about what it looks like in China versus what it looks like here in the United States.
You know not to damper the mood but I'm curious if it shows up in the way that Asian Americans are perceived and treated here in the United States and across the diaspora because again I came into this not really knowing a lot about it.
My mind has been opened up so much to what it does um you know if you're ignorant about it like I was you could look at this as a bad thing but as we've discussed it it's not all bad it's not all good it kind of is a little bit of everything.
So have you noticed any type of impact on this policy and the perception of Asians across the diaspora?
I honestly think the one child policy itself isn't the major cause for a lot of the effects of Asian immigration and economic status.
It's just a trigger for a lot of things that in China specifically there were cultural foundations where viewing family as a unit, standardized testing being the way for you to move up.
I think the one child policy just kind of centralized a lot of that a lot of those cultural forces into instead of spreading that expectation across multiple children we'll just focus on like one or two and you can kind of see how it just sort of snowballs as women in China get jobs and make more money than men.
They're also more reluctant to have kids because it might take them away from their work more.
So if you see this in the states today you would just see a lot of just a lot of badass women in their careers who may also less likely have children.
So hopefully in the U.S. we can support both realities.
Well one thing that my parents got asked a lot both by other people in the diaspora and just in the population is like well now that you're here and you're allowed to have more kids why don't you just have like you know 10 of them?
You can you're allowed to have as many as you want so why don't you? And from them the perspective was like well why would we want to just have as many as we possibly can?
We want to have as many as we can manage and right now our capacity is at like one.
And it kind of forces a bit of intention and like awareness of this is what we have to offer and this is basically the limit of that so let's work within you know our limitations.
Let's be aware of them and kind of stay within that. And again to me I'm like as a program manager that's really good resource management and strategy.
Yeah like taking the whole human piece out of them just like that that's just good policy.
I think that you know the flip side experience as a child is also you know your parents have this sort of like we got one shot one opportunity kind of mentality right?
And so there's a lot more pressure on the child to succeed career-wise or to sort of be filial to their parents.
We'll address this in a filial piety episode coming up.
But yeah there's a lot more pressure on the child to succeed because you know my parents I mean especially in the diaspora because there's this notion of like well my parents didn't sacrifice everything in their career trajectory and start their lives over so that I could be you know mediocre.
Like that's not a great payoff right? Like I have to work super hard in order to justify the decisions that they made because this is a team strategy.
And at the same time they're also super risk averse.
Like you're not allowed to do anything dangerous.
You're not allowed to like be a bad driver even though they aren't really great drivers.
I'm a better driver than my parents but like you're not allowed to like go skydiving or anything dangerous or you know too adventurous.
You are one shot.
Well and that's why I was wondering I'm just like I'm wondering how that impacts or shows up in the idea of the model minority which again is another thing that we're going to talk about through this series throughout the month.
But we only have a few minutes left and I want to make sure that I ask you both you know ERG founders, leads, members, etc.
So we're talking about you know this policy but in general we're talking about amplifying Asian voices.
So I want to hear from y'all.
Why do you think it's important and how do you plan on kind of doing that not only this month but going forward?
Well I'll just say briefly from my end I think it's wonderful even in tech where Asians are represented maybe a little bit more than other industries.
It's so easy to lump a lot of stereotypes, social perceptions, and comparisons of Asians with other ethnic groups that don't get addressed unless you know we're all hanging out together.
And I think this is a really great month to kind of recognize the differences and also discuss some of the things about Asians.
We need to just address a more topical way compared to sleeping with just our own presumptions.
That was a long-winded way to say it.
No that was great. What about you Jane? I mean when you think about it 60% of humankind lives on the it lives in the Asian subcontinent.
And if you include diaspora we're talking about two-thirds of humanity.
It's incredibly diverse but a lot of times from the outside it's viewed like a monolith.
And you know I think it's important to amplify the voices because for all these different facets of the stories it's there isn't going to be one or two stories that represent all of us.
And the more we get different kinds of stories out and represent ourselves in all these subtly different ways we can sort of normalize our experiences and our existence.
Oh well yeah I don't think I have anything left to add to that.
And again thank you both for joining me today. Again this is the first of many.
We amplify Asian voices all the time but let's keep this party going this May.