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Children participating in weight loss exercice in Beijing
Children participating in weight loss exercice in Beijing

-Analysis-

As China opened its markets and rose to become the world's second-largest economy, foreign media focus has shifted from tales of political repression and exotic outposts to largely a business story. Corporate chiefs and bankers unpack the meaning of hard, cold economic figures, and the latest data revealing Chinese "expansionary territory," with the odd mention of the apocalyptic pollution levels that go with the rest. While Western media coverage can make us all feel like amateur "China Hands," we strangely know very little about the people of the People's Republic.

When we do stumble upon such reports, however, we get a glimpse of the challenges China will have to face in the near future. And, much like everything else when it comes to this country, the challenges are massive — and eventually may touch our lives as well. One recent article in French dailyLe Figaro (in English via Worldcrunch), a reporter visits a local pig farm in southwestern China to show how the country has gotten hooked on the use of antibiotics in animal farming and for treating common ailments, which has led to the creation of incurable infections.

Almost one in four boys under 18 are obese.

Though still far short of a genuinely free press, China's media does include newspapers reporting on the problems of ordinary Chinese. A recent article published in the Beijing-based The Economic Observer also reports on a health issue: childhood obesity, in what is already the world's second most obese nation behind — you guessed it — the U.S. The author, Huaiyu Han Hao Tong, reports that as a result of the "fast-food invasion," almost one in four boys under 18 are obese.

One recurring topic for foreign observers of China crosses both the human and economic realms: demographics. The rapid aging of the population, which not even the end of the country's one-child policy can reverse, may be the most crucial single fact about China today. Speaking to French daily Les Échos, Isabelle Attané, a research leader at the French National institute for demographic studies, says that only 16% of the couples eligible to have a second child have actually asked for authorization. She adds that financial incentives will change little: Contrary to Japan, she says, China "risks become old before it becomes rich."

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Society

Papá, Papá, On Repeat: Are We Men Ready For Fatherhood To Change Our Lives?

There is a moment on Saturday or Sunday, after having spent ten hours with my kids, that I get a little exasperated, I lose my patience. I find it hard to identify the emotion, I definitely feel some guilt too. I know that time alone with them improves our relationship... but I get bored! Yes, I feel bored. I want some time in the car for them to talk to each other while I can talk about the stupid things we adults talk about.

A baby builds stack of blocks

Ignacio Pereyra*

This is what a friend tells me. He tends to spend several weekends alone with his two children and prefers to make plans with other people instead of being alone with them. As I listened to him, I immediately remembered my long days with Lorenzo, my son, now three-and-a-half years old. I thought especially of the first two-and-a-half years of his life, when he hardly went to daycare (thanks, COVID!) and we’d spend the whole day together.

It also reminded me of a question I often ask myself in moments of boredom — which I had virtually ignored in my life before becoming a father: how willing are we men to let fatherhood change our lives?

It is clear that the routines and habits of a couple change completely when they have children, although we also know that this rarely happens equally.

With the arrival of a child, men continue to work as much or more than before, while women face a different reality: either they double their working day — maintaining a paid job but adding household and care tasks — or they are forced to abandon all or part of their paid work to devote themselves to caregiving.

In other words, "the arrival of a child tends to strengthen the role of economic provider in men (...), while women reinforce their role as caregivers," says an extensive Equimundo report on Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighting a trend that repeats itself in most Western countries.

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