Since 1980 China has had a one-child policy. The result is that traditionally large families have turned into 1)inverted pyramids with multiple grandparents for every treasured little one, a child on whom much attention is 2)lavished and of whom great things are expected.
This is the Long Yun Guzheng Training Academy. It's a private music school where girls learn to play the Guzheng. The school is run by Ms. Long, herself a fine 3)soloist, who has even toured in the U.S. I asked her how many of the students are only children.
Long Dejun: (via translator) All of the students in this school are only children. We have 300 students, a little over 300.
Ms. Long says the pressure that only children can feel might be too much for some students, but it might actually make others work harder.
In this practice room, three girls age six, six and a half, and ten play in 4)unison with a 5)metronome keeping time. Each is perched on her three-legged stool in front of her instrument. The six-and-a-half-year-old in the front chair is so little her feet don't reach the ground. As the children take their lessons, the parents or grandparents who brought them wait. A few told us their kids practice at least an hour a day. I asked Ye Ping about the phenomenon of so many only children. She's an accountant who is waiting for her 10-year-old daughter. She said, yes, these kids live under a great deal of pressure.
Ye Ping: (via translator) Children here don't have a very happy childhood.
Reporter: What would be a better word to describe their childhood?
Ye Ping: (via translator) Hard work.
Song Daode is a 66-year-old retiree who happily admits to 6)doting full time on his 12-year-old granddaughter. She's his only grandchild. He says many more people now can provide their kids with a good education and they feel that they have to so that their children can compete.
Song Daode: (via translator) The big difference between China and other countries is that there are so many of us, so the pressures on the children are so much greater. I've been to Singapore and they don't have as many people. Pressure on their students is not as great as here. In China, the pressure to study is great. So we parents and grandparents are all running around in circles for our kids.