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Forget Tiger Moms. Now China's 'Chicken Blood' Parents Are Pushing Kids To Succeed

作者:Emily Feng 发布日期:9-7-2021

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a story now that brings to mind so-called tiger parents. That phrase came from a memoir called "Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother," whose author, Amy Chua, promoted what was considered a Chinese American style of aggressively pushing kids forward to succeed. Now, in China, some people talk of chicken blood parenting. NPR's Beijing correspondent Emily Feng reports on what it is.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Rainy Li wakes up at 6:00 a.m. every morning to send her two daughters to school. It's the start of a long day.

RAINY LI: (Through interpreter) After school finishes at 3:00 p.m., my oldest daughter goes straight to dance practice. I pick her up at 5:30 because she has an online math class at 6:00, which she completes on the drive home. Then she has swim practice.

FENG: Finally, at 11 p.m., Ms. Li says she can relax and spend some time with her husband. She's what you call a jiwa, or chicken parent in Chinese - like a hen mothering her brood of chicks. The name jiwa actually comes from a fringe Chinese medicine treatment where you pump someone with chicken blood for extra energy. Now, the term's used to describe hyperactive, aggressive parenting.

AUDREY WANG: (Through interpreter) We all wish for our children to attend a good university, and we hope that our children will discover and develop their true interests.

FENG: That's Audrey Wang. She affiliates with a rival style of parenting - the foxi, or Buddhist style, which is more relaxed and holistic. But she admits she pushes her daughter hard.

WANG: (Through interpreter) I don't think my children are as good as I was when I was a kid. They just don't possess the competitiveness and willingness to struggle.

FENG: In Beijing, jiwa parenting is so common there are even geographical clicks. For example, parents living in the city's university district of Haidian are known to be the most fierce, micromanaging their children's schedules into 15-minute increments.

WANG: (Through interpreter) Haidian parents are so test-oriented, they care very little whether their children enjoy what they do. We sort of look down on them. But in the East District here, we practice more of a Buddhist style.

FENG: Some jiwa parents are wealthy, but most come from humble backgrounds and worked hard as China's economy boomed. Now they want to give their children every advantage possible, especially as China's once-communist society gives way to an increasingly unequal one.

LIXIN REN: Every time when I hear the word jiwa, I feel a very strong sense of anxiety, stress, fear and exhaustion. I feel that if I don't, like, move forward, I will fall behind.

FENG: That's psychologist Ren Lixin, who has studied the jiwa phenomenon.

LIXIN: The term jiwa implies that parents assume this role of paving the road for children's success.

FENG: Jiwa parenting has spawned a cottage industry of billion-dollar education companies which provide afterschool tutoring and cram classes. Jiwa parents have also published bestselling books. Xiaohua teaches English by filming videos for jiwa parents and their children. And she says one of the harder parts of her job is calming families down.

XIAOHUA JUAN: That is not very easy task. Because you know how passionate, let's say, some Chinese parents can be. So they're always asking me, oh, my kids have been listening to me - to my stories for a week. When can she speak?

FENG: And while jiwa culture might be the most commercially developed in China, it's not unique. Xuan Li, a parenting psychologist at NYU Shanghai, notes widening social inequality globally is linked to education competition.

XUAN LI: You don't want your child to, in any case, fall into the abyss of poverty or lifetime adversity. You want them to at least survive and thrive well. But a highly unequal society does not afford that.

FENG: Chinese policymakers are trying to dial down the most extreme facets of chicken blood parenting. They want families to have more children and raise more future Chinese workers. But parents complain the social pressure of jiwa culture means raising more than one child can lead to parental burnout. That's what Audrey, the more foxi, or relaxed, parent already feels.

WANG: (Through interpreter) We just physically are not able to expend the same amount of energy on our Daughter No. 2. I can only make sure she's at home and has food to eat.

FENG: Regulators in China have already taken serious steps to curb jiwa parenting. New rules implemented in July strictly limit the cost and number of after-school classes parents can sign up for. Public schools are being forced to actually teach during the day. They can no longer foist their students into classes after school, which their parents have to pay for. But Rainy Li says the most wealthy jiwa parents will always find a workaround.

R LI: (Through interpreter) Because through this policy, they are even more convinced of the potential for social immobility. They are even more eager to propel their kids into the elite circles. They're willing to cut back on their own spendings in order to invest in their children.

FENG: In fact, now that some after school classes are banned, Rainy Li says the best teachers at her local public school have already approached her for one-on-one tutoring, under the radar, for $300 an hour. And of course, there will be parents willing to pay.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF RRAREBEAR'S "BACKPACK")

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