Economy

China Grapples With Baby Boom In The Year Of The Monkey

Newborns at a maternity in Lanzhou, northwestern China, on Feb. 17
Newborns at a maternity in Lanzhou, northwestern China, on Feb. 17
Wang Xueqiao and Wang Xiaohui

BEIJING â€" "Our little monkey has decided to join the fun," said Lucy, a 33-year-old woman expecting her first child this October. She’s one of many happy Chinese women due to give birth in the year of the monkey, an animal that is associated with cleverness in the Chinese zodiac calendar.

A Founder Securities report released in July showed that China’s major cities are seeing a baby boom this year. The lifting of the one-child policy and the popularity of the monkey zodiac led to this boom. The surge in births has far surpassed the numbers estimated by obstetrics and gynecology hospitals as well as by the country’s family planning agencies. An additional 3 million Chinese babies are expected to make their appearance in the coming year.

China expected about 80,000 to 90,000 couples every month in 2015 to request permission to have a second child. But the actual number of applications was more than double those figures, according to statistics from the national health and family planning commission.

Taken by surprise, hospitals in megacities such as Beijing are under pressure. Dr. Li Zhi at Beida International Hospital said the capital city welcomed 170,000 newborns last year. That number is likely to exceed 400,000 this year â€" far beyond the capacity of Beijing’s 380,000 maternity beds.

Lucy’s family wakes up as early as 4 a.m. to get her an appointment for a pregnancy checkup so she won’t be stranded in the hospital the whole day.

In China, maternity wards are the sites of the highest number of disputes between doctors and patients, which routinely prompts many doctors to leave. One hospital noted that the frequent shortage of medical staff would increase the risk of delivering babies.

Chinese believe that last year, which was the year of the goat, symbolizes hardship in life. Many parents timed their pregnancy to skip last year and have their baby this year instead. Lucy said three of her colleagues at a communication firm she works at have already delivered "little monkeys" this year.

An increase in baby products and services

Like many Chinese parents, Lucy began shopping for her baby the day she learned of her pregnancy. "So far, I have spent over 10,000 yuan ($1,500) buying feeding utensils, clothes and other baby care goods," she said with a smile. "Not to mention bulkier stuff, like a stroller and car seat."

In recent years, pregnant women in China are enthusiastic participants in online parenting sites, where they chat with other expectant mothers and consult experts. Since most of them grew up while the economy boomed, they share a desire to give their offspring the best.

Companies selling baby milk formula expect the baby boom to benefit their businesses. The wages of Yuesao, nurses who help care for the baby while the mothers rest, have shot up due to high demand for their services. A Yuesao’s remuneration has gone up from 8,000 yuan ($1,200) last year to between 10,000 ($1,500) and 15,000 yuan ($2,260) this year.

No one is exactly sure how long the baby boom will continue.

Chinese media and research institutes believe that women’s social advancement and the heavy costs associated with raising and educating a child will make parents not want to have more than one child. They believe that when people are accustomed to having one child and have been comfortable financially, they will be reluctant to change the situation.

Authorities and experts predict that the baby boom in China is likely to persist next year, reach its peak in 2019 but drop off thereafter.

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.

💬  LEXICON

魷魚的勝利

Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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