Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Selling Innocence- Cultural Divide We Cant Imagine

Posted by w_thames_the_d on January 27, 2010


I watched this great show last night on CNBC- I think. It was about child prostitution in Laos Cambodia etc. and one man’s fight against it. What struck me was that they in Southeast Asia have identical notions of childhood fidelity to the family as Chinese in China- I will explain later. But the essence of this show was that prostitution and selling of children is a huge global problem.

One of the reasons, is that the parents actually will sell their children, to pay off debts or to gain things. To anyone in the west or most of the world, this is deplorable. The idea of the sanctity of an innocent child and protection of his or her rights are inviolable- unfortunately in Asia this must not be the case.

Let me explain. In China, they have something called xiao (means small), or the 24 books of xiao ( I believe this is a useful link). And what this convention means is that the child must do whatever is possible to SUPPORT his family- he must aspire to make their lives better. Contrast this to the west where it is vice-versa, we try to provide them a better life, but this is not so in China. In China, the child MUST provide for his folks, I have found this to be true in practice as well.

The impact of xiao, as I was told, and the show Selling innocence touched on, was that children will be sold by their parents or will submit themselves to servitude or act as sex workers, just so their parents have money. The children see this as a noble or honorable task. Take a moment to let that sink in…

A child here feels that it is a noble thing to sell himself so that his parents can live…

Some may argue that in China the parents do much for the kids, we have all heard of the little emperors who want for nothing. I would submit, that this is not inconsistent with what I have said before. In China, they have no real social security system, and by 2020 they will have about 500 million people of retirement age. That is 1.6 times the population of America, or 3 times the population of Brazil- all over 55. This is a huge drain on the social welfare system, and basically they have none. So the solution is xiao- the children. It is culturally demanded that the children support their folks in thier old age. Now remember that their folks must support their folks (the kids grandparents)so the modern burden is not only ones parents, but to support grandparents as well. Thus, according to almost all my chinese friends, these ‘acts of kindness’ meted to the children are nothing more than a form of social security. Give a child a chance (good English, math skills) and he can travel, get a better job. The kids should give around 20% of their salary to their folks, so it is in the parents best interest to see the child obtain as much wealth as he can.

Sound jaded, like I am blowing smoke, how about this… PKU (Bei DA- Peking University) has just made the notion of xiao a part of thier acceptance policies- not an obediant son, cant get in. It is a different world here, you can magnify what you hear by a factor of 2 or 3 and still not really understand- I am just doing my part.

One Response to “Selling Innocence- Cultural Divide We Cant Imagine”

  1. […] By beafraidofchina Leave a Comment Categories: Uncategorized Good blog post here about child prostitution in China and the world. In essence the blog is about the notion of […]

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