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
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game