Blog EntriesContemporary Society

ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, January 23 Issue

Let's call it "video week" at ZGB because my top picks this week are all video reports on some fairly pressing contemporary social issues, each of them ripples of China's one-child policy.

Video: China's Left-Behind Kids Bear Adult Burdens (Wall Street Journal)

This is a heart-breaking story about children who are left behind in the villages while their parents are off working in the cities. Here's the introduction:

About 61 million Chinese childrenone of every five in the world's most populous nationhaven't seen one or both parents for at least three months, according to the All-China Women's Federation, a Communist Party advocacy group. The total has grown so big that the children are widely known as left-behind kids. Nowhere else on earth do so many children live largely on their own.

Many migrant parents believe they are fulfilling their duty to raise their family's standard of living. Income sent home helps pay for better food and education, and some workers save enough money to build a new home in their rural village. It is common for both parents to leave home together, since they can save faster and there are so many jobs in the city.

This is also affecting the rural churches. A Chinese Christian commented on this in an article in the Christian Times, and translated at Chinese Church Voices:

The countryside lifestyle is gradually becoming urbanized; lifestyle habits and work hours have changed. Previously, their lives were rather static, getting up at sunrise and going to bed at sundown. But now, pursuing consumerism and travel, the number of people who go to church continues to decrease.

Video: Children denied an identity under China's one-child policy (BBC)

And what about the 10-20 million children who have been born "illegally"outside of the policy? What is life like for them and their parents? A BBC report titled Video: Children denied an identity under China's one-child policy tackles this question.

Right in the centre of the tiny farming village of Beigaoli, in eastern China's Shandong province, lies a cheery local kindergarten. Most of the village children attend classes here every day for free, singing songs and making use of the outdoor swing set.

But the parents of one three-year-old had to bribe the kindergarten's teachers to allow him to attend.

Zhang Rundong is a little boy with big eyes and a serious expression, standing on the edge of the noisy group of children. He is the Zhang family's illegal second son, born in violation of the country's one-child policy.

In retaliation for the boy's birth, officials are withholding his identity papers. Without them, he cannot access healthcare or free education, travel within his country or even use a library.

Video: "China's Web Junkies." (The New York Times)

China's army of only children have often been dubbed "little emperors," spoiled kids who often lack social skills. With the advent of the Internet, many have gone online in search of connection and meaning, becoming 'web junkies."

This NYT short documentary takes us inside an Internet addiction treatment center near Beijing:

Compulsive Internet use has been categorized as a mental health issue in many countries, including the United States, but China was among the first to label "Internet addiction" a clinical disorder.

In this Op-Doc video, we show the inner workings of a rehabilitation center where Chinese teenagers are "deprogrammed." The Internet Addiction Treatment Center, in Daxing, a suburb of Beijing, was established in 2004. It was one of the first of its kind and there are now hundreds of treatment programs throughout China and South Korea. (The first inpatient Internet addiction program in the United States recently opened in Pennsylvania.)

The program featured in this video admits teenagers, usually male, whose parents typically take them there against their will. Once inside, the children are kept behind bars and guarded by soldiers. Treatment, which often lasts three to four months, includes medication and therapy, and sometimes includes parents. Patients undergo military-inspired physical training, and their sleep and diet are carefully regulated. These techniques (some of which are also used in China to treat other behavioral disorders) are intended to help the patients reconnect with reality.

This is just a glimpse of the social context within which Chinese Christians are seeking to be salt and light.

Image credit: by Hi Tricia!, via Flickr

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio