This student really did choose to have his English name as “Star.” He was one of my Journalism students last year. He was the a student who smiled a lot and didn’t work too hard. As is my usual practice when teaching at the university, I used the break time between class hours to chat with my students and learn more about them. Star had described himself as having a simple dream for the future, unlike most of his peers. There was no talk of being a businessman or journalist, no talk of setting up his own business. For him it was simple. He just intended on being rich and enjoying a happy life with his family. Of course his parents would live with him forever in this future, and perhaps his grandparents as well.
There is a cultural dynamic at work here, that of a son taking care of his parents and having his parents care for his future child with all living in the same home. This is considered the “norm” in China, in modern China where there is a one-child family policy. Star, like almost all of his classmates, has been the focus, the centre of the world for his four grandparents and his parents. The protection and coddling of children, especially boy children, makes it almost impossible for a boy to “move out and away from his family” in China.
The grandparents and parents see their future well-being and security all wrapped up in the one child. That one child, must be protected at all costs, must be given every advantage that money can buy. And that money, is saved as parents and grandparents funnel every cent (jiao/mao), every dollar (yuan/kuai) into the child’s education which includes more than is to be found in the school. The child rarely learns the meaning of the word, “No.” The last thing the parents and grandparents want is for the child to grow up wanting to escape the family, angry at the family. And, as a result, China is suffering a generation of children, adolescents who behave as if they are little emperors and empresses. Like Star, there is no sense of reality, no sense of boundaries, there is no chance for becoming psychologically mature as men.
I was in a local business talking with a friend of the past six years, a Chinese woman who had married a foreigner and has since divorced him on the grounds of adultery on his part. I asked her why she wasn’t going to get married again and she told me her reasons. She told me that Chinese men were spoiled. They married as required by his parents, provided the grandchild they needed and saw that as the end of his “duty” as far as being married was concerned.
Life is now all about playing while the grandparents raise the child. Now is the time to indulge his every whim; girlfriends and mistresses, parties with his buddies at the newest International Men’s Clubs or KTV, expensive luncheons where the food is basically ignored while the guys constantly toast each other until they are pleasantly drunk. Life, for these men, is all about play, about living their fantasies.
Of course not all of the young Chinese men are like this, but many are, too many. Young Chinese men like Star, will remain stuck in the world of adolescence until reality bursts and takes down the all the walls separating these men from protection of their parents and grandparents.