2014: A New Beginning for "Shidu" Parents?

IMAGE: Reuters


BEIJING, China -- This week, hundreds of millions of families in China celebrated the arrival of 2014 with excitement and anticipation. For 50-year-old Shi Hui and her 51-year-old husband, however, it was yet another occasion of grief and mourning. The couple spent the New Year without their only son, Tian Yao, who died of cancer in January 2012.


Under China’s One-Child Policy, 76,000 families lose their only child every year. The number of such “shidu” families, as the Chinese call it, amounted to more than 1 million in 2010. For parents like Shi Hui, who become childless late in life, the prospect of aging can be daunting. “Even if we don’t have illnesses, there will still be a lot of problems as we grow old,” she said. “We will have difficulty taking care of ourselves and moving around as freely. We won’t even be able to go to the hospital or go shopping for daily necessities by ourselves.”


Apart from physical support, Chinese parents also turn to their children for financial assistance. Yet, with the continuation of the One-Child Policy, this has become increasingly difficult not only for shidu parents, but also for the elderly in general. The 33-year-old family planning law has resulted in population aging and labor shortage, which will in turn put pressure on the nation’s healthcare and welfare systems. Paul French, an economic analyst and commentator, made the following prediction in one of his blog articles:


Chinese people will face increased healthcare costs as they get older, meaning that they will increasingly need to make out-of-pocket spending from their pensions, to draw down on their life savings, or sell their homes in order to pay for expensive treatments for long-term, incurable illnesses that are gradually less likely to be covered by current healthcare insurance schemes.


In view of this, the National Health and Family Planning Commission recently decided to triple the minimum compensation given to some shidu parents. Starting from 2014, urban and rural couples who have lost their only child will receive a monthly allowance of 340 yuan ($56) and 170 yuan ($28) respectively, an increase from the current 135 yuan ($22). However, as many parents have expressed, the amount of compensation is still disproportionate to that of the One-Child Policy fines, which came to more than 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in 2012. In fact, according to a survey conducted in 15 Chinese provinces, 80% of respondents were worried about their future despite assistance measures.


This brings us to a point that seems so evident, and yet so often overlooked or disregarded by the leaders of China: what contributes the most to the worries of shidu parents is not financial, but emotional, in nature. The pain of losing an only child is something for which the government can never compensate by dispensing money or improving elderly care facilities. “The older I become, the more I miss my daughter,” a shidu parent said. “The feeling of insecurity has made me tense. I don’t want to die alone in my apartment.”


Last week, China’s top legislature approved a resolution allowing couples to have two children if either parent is an only child. Although the newly tweaked One-Child Policy is expected to take effect early this year, the change has come too late for many families. Back in Shi Hui’s apartment, the bereaved mother flipped through pictures after pictures of her son’s tombstone, her eyes filled with tears.


All Girls Allowed urges the Chinese leadership to sense and act upon its people’s cry for help. As long as the One-Child Policy remains in place, tragedies akin to those mentioned above are bound to recur. “In 2014, we will take new steps on the road of reform,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his recent New Year address. “Our ultimate goal in pushing forward the reform is to make the nation more prosperous and strong, society more fair and just, and people’s lives better.” In this upcoming year, will China fulfill its promise of fairness, justice, and well-being by ending the One-Child Policy? The world shall await in hope and prayer.


All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy.  “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”

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Much of the research of All Girls Allowed has been supplemented by the excellent work of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.


The Congressional-Executive Commission on China is a bipartisan organization dedicated to providing reliable research about China.  To view the most recent Annual Reports, please visit the following links:


2012 Annual Report:  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112shrg76190/pdf/CHRG-112shrg76190....

IMAGE: Brookings Institution


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