Year of the Dragon boom threatens one-child rule

DESPITE YEARS of Communism, China clings to many superstitions and none is more widespread than an auspicious birth date.

Next year brings the double whammy of the millennium and the year of the dragon, which promises to send pregnancies soaring - and throw Peking's one-child policy into chaos. "We only get to have one child, so we want to get everything right and there is nothing like an auspicious date to start off with," said Shang Rong, a newly married marketing executive in Peking.

She has two friends who are already pregnant and hopes that she too will produce a dragon baby to bring in the new millennium. In fact, she is so fixated with the idea that she has already started dreaming of noble- sounding names and is determined that her infant, when he or she arrives, will learn English and music from an early age and get every advantage she and her husband can afford.

Mainland Chinese remain obliged to observe strict birth quotas, which were introduced in the early Eighties to limit exponential population growth. While rural dwellers are often permitted two offspring, urban women must have an abortion if they become pregnant for a second time.

The limit means a good birth date is especially significant to give precious only children the best start in life. The year is important: in Chinese tradition the dragon, which is the fifth animal of the Eastern zodiac, represents fertility and strength. When coinciding with the new millennium, which many in China have dubbed the Asian century, the year 2000 is just too auspicious to ignore.

The date is also significant, so well-to-do couples - especially in southern China - will sometimes opt for a Caesarean birth when it is not strictly necessary. This allows some choice on the delivery date and increases the chances of getting a lucky number such as eight.

As might be expected, the State Family Planning Commission's propaganda director, Chen Shengli, discounts superstition over birth dates as a minor consideration. But he conceded that auspicious years have sent pregnancy rates soaring in the past, and that the government can do little to prevent couples having their one baby in the year 2000.

Hospitals such as the Peking Capital Union are already seeing an increase in pregnancies compared with 1998. One doctor said he thought the rate would increase by 5 to 10 per cent through the year. With the likes of Ms Shang and her friends determined to provide the best for their "little emper-ors," as only children in China are often called, businesses catering for mothers and babies are gearing up for a boom.

"It's early days to gauge quite how big the increase in pregnancies there will be, as the Chinese New Year doesn't fall until February. But there has been a lot of talk, as everyone wants a dragon child, especially a millennium one," said Matthew Estes, who runs baby-care stores in China.

Standing in his flagship store in an upmarket district of Peking, he recites a common phrase in China's cities: "Six pockets, one mouth", meaning that a child has the financial resources of his or her parents and the two sets of doting grandparents. Since China introduced its one-child policy in the early Eighties and focused parents on a single offspring, spending on children has risen sharply. The average Peking household now spends about 750 yuan (pounds 58) a month, or around 40 per cent of income, exclusively on its child.

Doctors expect that the surge in births next year will be followed by a drop-off in the birth rate in 2001 and China should remain more or less on target for its population to level out at 1.6 billion in 2050. But a baby boom in a nation that gets 21 million births in an average year is not what Pekingwants to see. China's population is already approaching 1.3 billion, some 100 million more than was originally intended for the year 2000.

Suggested Topics
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

C# Web Developer (C#, MS Dynamics CRM, SQL, SQl Server) London

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Oracle developer- (Oracle, PL/SQL, UNIX/LINUX) - Trade- London

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the global leaders in prov...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering