Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

China's Left Behind Children - Short film


Recommended Posts

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

madizi

Few years ago, I was translating an article about left behind children. There were gruesome stories in it about some children who poisoned themselves because they couldn't live normal lives anymore. Then there were some who were searching for food in trash cans.

 

Really sad stories. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Ori_A

@madizi

Thank you for sharing that. When did it happen?

The left behind children are much more taken care of these days, but you still have cases of kids being alone in the villages, growing themselves (I’ve met a few of them myself), and of course, even when having a family member taking care of them, they are separated from their parents for years. 
Some stories are hard, I completely understand what you’re saying.

@Jan Finster

Thank you!

Very glad you liked it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
abcdefg

The sound track is very clear. This makes the father's voice easy to understand. He comes across as an intelligent guy who is genuinely trying to deal with a difficult situation. I appreciate the way you have depicted him, with respect. 

 

1054548666_Sichuansoundtrack.thumb.PNG.0f9709ebad972745428a9094405d816f.PNG

 

I've visited some villages in rural Yunnan where the kids theoretically had access to schooling, but a long hike was required to get to and from every day. The logistics, in addition to the expense, made it all too easy to drop out to help with seasonal chores and not go back. This seemed to be especially true among ethnic minorities. 

 

I've come to know quite a few adults who grew up in situations like that, being raised mainly by a kindly grandmother. Grandfather was away, like the parents, working in the city 打工。

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
mungouk

Great topic — I look forward to watching the films when I have time.

 

Possibly a good moment to add a mention for Educating Girls of Rural China (EGRC), a charity run out of Canada by a lady called Ching Tien who's originally from Beijing.

 

Education is by far the best route out of poverty, and despite the recent advances, girls in rural areas of China are the most likely to be disadvantaged by a lack of educational opportunities. 

 

When I was teaching English in Beijing one of my Chinese students from a wealthy international college went to a rural village in Guilin as part of a school trip, and wrote a really touching account of her time there, which was a real eye-opener for me. Even young Chinese kids recognise the "left behind children" as a phenomenon and a problem.

 

I've been a supporter of EGRC for a while and they accept donations by PayPal.

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
NanJingDongLu

It's a very sad situation. I wanted to cheer myself up so I went to look at some optimistic statistics. In 1981, 88% of Chinese people were classed as in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.90 per day. Today that number is under 0.35%. In 2000, a mere 21 years ago, only 3% of Chinese people earned more than $5 per day. Today that number is over 48% source That's over $2 billion per day being given to people who were previously some of the poorest, most in need people in the world.

 

There is a rumour China is overpopulated because it has the largest population in the world and many of its cities are so crowded, but if you compare the population density to other countries, China has 145 people per square km while the UK has 270 per km2. China is less densely populated than Italy and Switzerland. The only problem is that too much of the wealth is situated in a small number cities, which is why Shanghai has a density of 3900 per km2.

 

It's so encouraging to compare how much China has changed from 2000 to 2020, and to think how much better life will be for all of those people if the improvement maintains even half of its trajectory going into 2040.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
Ori_A

@abcdefg

Thank you for the comment, I'm glad you found the film interesting. 
Ethnic minorities indeed have a harder time, especially when some of them don't speak Mandarin, which makes it harder to find opportunities outside. 
This phenomenon has been around for almost 30 years, so it's not uncommon to see parents to left behind children who grew up the same way themselves. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Ori_A

@mungouk

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, as well as the charity. I'll take a look at it. 
Education is definitely the best way to improve social mobility, but unfortunately, the Chinese kids from the countryside often find it very difficult to compete with the wealthier kids from the cities, simply because the education there is much better. These things make it very challenging to bring forth a real change, though it does happen. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Ori_A

@NanJingDongLu
Thank you for the comment. China's economy has definitely improved rapidly in the past 20 years, a lot of which is due to these migrant workers, who have sacrificed their family lives in order to earn money, not only for themselves, but also for the country. 
It is encouraging, however, to put it in prespective - China has one of the greatest economic inequalities in the world. The entire population enjoys the country's development, but for the poor, it happens at a much slower pace. Apart from keeping the economic development going, the best route to take, in my opinion, is to focus on improving the educational systems in the countryside, allowing the children to have a better chance of going through high school, and a much higher chance to enroll into universities. 
These things happen as well, but I really hope that they would put more effort into it in the near future. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Dawei3
19 hours ago, Ori_A said:

China has one of the greatest economic inequalities in the world

Although these inequalities exist, the Chinese government has been very effective in its messaging to the rural poor.  Harvard's ASH study (2020) noted that during the last 20 years "Interestingly, more marginalized groups in poorer, inland regions are actually comparatively more likely to report increases in satisfaction."  https://ash.harvard.edu/publications/understanding-ccp-resilience-surveying-chinese-public-opinion-through-time

 

One interesting aspect is that the ASH study suggests the biggest changes for the rural poor happened before the tenure of President Xi.  Yet the villager in the film mentions Xi's contribution.  This reflects the effectiveness of Xi in getting the country to believe in his contributions.  As an example of accomplishments of earlier administrations, ASH noted "the proportion of rural villagers covered by basic medical insurance rose from 32% in 2005 to 82.8% in 2011, while the proportion with basic employee pension plans rose from 36.8% to 71.3%. Moreover, the number of villagers with no access to any of the six listed programs dropped from 58.3% in 2005 to just 13.2% in 2011."

 

If you're interested a detailed look at this issue, the ASH report is worth a read.  It provides a non-political & very balanced view.  

 

Your films are touching and insightful.  As a possible topic for a future film, you might consider talking with single men in rural areas about marriage prospects.  In Shanghai & Beijing, I have friends from across the country.  Virtually all of my male friends are married or have girlfriends.  In contrast, a high proportion of the women I know are single without boyfriends.  These are attractive, intelligent women with nice personalities who are willing to go out with anyone who is good for them (i.e., not just guys with money/a home/car).   

 

Hearing that China has many more men than women, it was hard to understand why so many women have trouble finding boyfriends.  They've told me that academically successful women move to the cities and that many men stay in the rural areas.  As a result, although China has many more men than women, this imbalance isn't happening in the big cities.  And women in the big cities aren't interested in finding a husband in a rural area.  This is a sensitive topic that you may want to explore.  You obviously have the empathy needed for sensitive topics.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
mungouk
9 minutes ago, Dawei3 said:

you might consider talking with single men in rural areas about marriage prospects.

 

This is also a really interesting topic. The one-child policy has resulted in such a massive skew in gender balance, especially in rural areas (partly due to female infanticide; an issue not only restricted to China by any means).

 

But just like many others around the world, as gender equality improves urban Chinese women these days also want a career and don't see being married off at 25 to become a home-maker as particularly attractive  (surprise). 

 

And then the urban/rural dimension adds further complexity as @Dawei3 points out. I don't have the data to hand, but I have a feeling that China is one of the slowest large economies to urbanise. 

 

(India is also similar in many respects, but also has very different forces — mainly religious — affecting its direction.)

 

Really interesting. Plenty to explore there. 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Insectosaurus
2 hours ago, mungouk said:

I don't have the data to hand, but I have a feeling that China is one of the slowest large economies to urbanise. 

 

The UN demographics unit (usually incredibly accurate) seems to suggest China are on the quicker side when it comes to urbanization. I'm not schooled in statistics so if anyone wants to look at the data themselves here is a link.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
Ori_A

@Dawei3
Great comment, thank you for the insights and ideas. I'll have a good look at that report, looks interesting.
From my experience, which is not academic or statistical, nearly all of the people that I've spoken to (which is a lot of people) were very satisfied with recent development, and with the role president Xi has in everything. It's not without good reason. Xi Jinping's policies have improved the villagers lives a great dealm and still do. It was especially visable in road construction, subsidiary for new houses in the countryside, and what seems to be a genuine effort to create more opportunities in the village (one example is present in the film I made in Hubei). It differs greatly from province to province, and even within the provinces themselves, but the general direction is positive. 

However, I would not neccessarily see "satisfaction" as evidence for equality, or the absence of inequality. The fact is, most working-age rural Chinese still prefer to leave the villages and work in the cities (whether they have kids or not). The rapid development in China affects everyone, but the people who recieve the biggest push are the ones who are already in a better place than others. It's very evident in the education system, but also in salaries, access to healthcare or infrustructure development.  

The mother in one of the families that I've documented in Sichuan (in the same village as the one in the short film) had to deal with a series medical condition, and that's where you could see the where the inequality exists. They were working in Nanjing, and she was diagnosed with a tumor in her throat. They had to decide whether to go to a good hospital in Nanjing and pay 100% of the fees from their own pockets, or go back home to recieve free healthcare (due to Hukou restrictions), in a hospital that is far, far less capable. They chose to go to a big hospital in Sichuan, where they still had to pay for everything, using all of their savings and getting loans from friends. I remember that it was a big eye opener for me, as I had only read and learned about the Hukou system implications from books, but here, it was happening in front of my eyes - a real struggle that someone who has an urban Hukou wouldn't have to face. 
It's a very complicated topic, and I don't claim to be an expert, but rather just bring individual stories that I encounter. 

The gender, marriage and other similar topics are definitely on my to do list, at least on the research level if not full documentation. There are many topics in the modern Chinese society that I'm interested in, the recent changes in the one-child-policy is one of them, including the population's rapid aging process, that so far the government fails to address efficiently. 
At the moment I'm very invested in this Left-Behind-Children project, that will probably take a few more years to complete, and I'm waiting for China to reopen again so that I can continure. But every family that I document brings forth new ideas and topics that I could interact with in the future. 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Link to post
Share on other sites
NanJingDongLu
35 minutes ago, Ori_A said:

However, I would not neccessarily see "satisfaction" as evidence for equality, or the absence of inequality.

I'm not really sure equality is an important metric. China was a much more equal society back when 88% of the population were classed as being in extreme poverty, and no one had access to good healthcare or education. If more of the country now do have access to good healthcare and education as well as being able to earn a better wage, the solution isn't to drag them back down and close the hospitals.

 

The correct metric is surely "how good is the life of the lower tiers of society?" and all efforts should be put into improving that, rather than "how big is the gap?"

 

My understanding is that previously only the tier 1 cities in China had any wealth, but now even the tier 2 and 3 cities are much wealthier than before. As more and more areas around the country become acceptable places to live, work, and raise children, the number of families that have to break up to earn a better wage will reduce exponentially.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Ori_A

@NanJingDongLu

I agree that equality by itself means nothing. As you said, being equally poor is not a good place to be.

However, I do believe that looking at the gap is important, for two main reasons:

 

1. Budget and workforce distribution. Putting money in rural development does necessarily mean that less money will go to the urban development, and vice versa. Knowing the differences is important in order to make development plans for the future, and distributing the resources more wisely.

 

2. It helps understand certain social phenomenons and behaviours. Take migration as an example - the gap between rich and poor has a big influence on China’s inner migration. Even as the living conditions in the villages continue to improve, if the the opportunities in the city are that much better in the eyes of the rural family, it would probably be a good enough reason to leave for many of them.

 

The big gap also creates a serious disconnect between the rural and urban populations, much more than what I see in my own country.
 

You could say that the rapid development in the rural areas is good enough, regardless of what the urban development looks like, and I might even agree with you. But I think it is something worth taking into consideration, whether we’re just people interested in understanding the Chinese society, or we're government officials who want to make more educated decisions.

  • Helpful 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...