Yixiang Zeng: Growing up the product of the one-child policy

Me, myself, I...

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I was born in 1983, during the one-child-policy years. My mum and dad had four siblings, so my brothers and sisters were my cousins. You might think, oh, lucky you! A spoilt one! But I don't think so. My parents were very caring and loving people, though they were quite strict about my education.

At six I started school, and my dad, a senior high school teacher, would check my homework after coming home from work. My mother took me to piano lessons and, as we went, she would explain the construction of good articles chosen from various students' newspapers or magazines.

At 12, I was enrolled at one of the best boarding schools, Chongqing Foreign Language School, to learn English, a language which later enabled me to explore a world beyond my parents' reach. Our lessons began at 8:10am and ended at about 5pm. As we were in boarding school, we also had self-study time during the evenings. This would start at 7pm and last until 9.30pm. From 7 to 7.30pm, we had to watch the state television news programme.

Probably around 15, girls started noticing boys and vice versa. But we would rarely openly express our feelings or start a relationship, because that was banned; the school and the parents would never allow it to happen. I would say sex education in China at the time was lagging behind. I remember my biology teacher only explained a couple of lines about puberty changes during the class, and then dashed on to other topics. On the other hand, I never heard of any of my girl friends becoming a teenage mum.

We sometimes had parties in the evenings in the dormitory, but they rarely involved alcohol. We also would never say "let's go for a drink" to our friends. It was, you might say, simply not our cup of tea. That may not be changing, but other things are.

Yixiang Zeng is a journalist who lives and works in London

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