One-Child Policy Accused of Breeding Mistrust

An Australian study published last week attempts to quantify the psychological effects of the “one-child policy” on those born under it, who have often been disparaged as a generation of spoiled “Little Emperors”. Its findings may bode ill for the future of Chinese business and society. From Bloomberg News: Using surveys of 421 men and women in Beijing and testing their skills in economic games, researchers in Australia found those born after the 1979 policy were more pessimistic, nervous, less conscientious, less competitive and more risk averse. They also found them to be 23 percent less prone to choose an occupation that entails business risk, such as becoming a stockbroker, entrepreneur or private firm manager. […] Xin Meng, a co-author of the study who grew up in Beijing and left China in 1988, said she detects a different behavioral attitude among the only-child population compared with the previous generation. A 2011 incident where a two-year-old girl in southern China died after she was struck by two vans and ignored by 18 passersby caused a furor, with domestic media and Internet users criticizing Chinese society for a lack of morality. “An incident like this is just unthinkable 20 years ago,” said Meng, a professor of economics at the Australian National University in Canberra. “If you’ve lived in the Chinese society for a long time, you can sense the difference as people become more individualistic.” Lisa Cameron, another of the study’s authors, discussed the findings (PDF transcript) with Sarah Crespi on the Science magazine podcast. Some have expressed reservations about the study, however. From Rebecca Morelle at the BBC: Professor Stuart West, from the University of Oxford, said the study was “very interesting”. However, he cautioned against some of the conclusions that had been drawn. He explained: “They are making very strong ...
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