eyes on the U.S.
August 21, 2013
FUJIAN — The Chinese romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right, released earlier this year, portrays the droves of Chinese going overseas to have their babies.
Lin Hao (not his real name) is a senior executive at a well-known enterprise in Fujian and is part of this wave. He arranged for his wife to give birth to their second child in the U.S., a rare chance to have an “American Baby.”
To many Chinese, traveling to the United States to give birth makes good sense. The U.S. Constitution provides that children born on U.S. soil automatically receive American citizenship. Meanwhile, parents like Lin Hao face expensive fines amounting to several years’ income for having more children than China’s family planning policy allows. A baby with foreign citizenship isn’t subject to these fines.
Contrary to the stereotype of poor immigrants giving birth to “anchor babies” in the U.S. to secure citizenship, those leading China’s overseas birth tourism are the nouveaux riches — celebrities, officials, professors, doctors, business owners and media executives. In addition to dodging punishments for violating Chinese family planning policies, they also hope a U.S. passport will enhance their child’s travel and education opportunities down the line.
There are also those who absolutely must give birth abroad or face unthinkable consequences. These include mistresses giving birth out of wedlock and government officials who risk their political careers if they have too many children.
Searching for a host
In the past, Hong Kong was the hottest destination for Chinese birth tourists since it also follows the “principle of territory,” giving citizenship to any child born within its borders. But locals became angry when so many mothers from Mainland China started crowding the city’s hospitals. So the new Hong Kong government recently announced that both public and private hospitals would stop accepting pregnant women in cases when neither the mother nor father are Hong Kong residents.
Since these mothers started flocking to the U.S., locals there have also protested. Many have called on the government to end the birthright to citizenship, but doing so would be virtually impossible. It would entail amending the U.S. Constitution, which requires the support of two-thirds of Congress — something that’s happened only 27 times in American history.
But even though America’s door is open, there are fairly high thresholds for giving birth in the country. Getting a visa, passing through customs, finding a place to live, giving birth and transporting the baby back to China are all difficult hurdles to overcome. Just getting the visa is often the toughest. It requires an interview with a U.S. consular who’s on the lookout for these very kinds of birth tourists.
To ensure his wife would get a visa, Lin visited a host of websites that outline the process of traveling to the U.S. to give birth. After this preparation, he decided to make the trip there alone first to scope out the situation.
But even Lin’s scouting trip would be a challenge. People like him from Fujian have high rejection rates for U.S. visas, because many have attempted to immigrate illegally in the past.
He applied for a three-month tourist visa and gathered every document he could imagine proving his income, employment, assets and ties to China. In the end, his conversation with the visa officer was short and sweet, taking less than two minutes. The visa officer told them “You’ve passed. Welcome to the United States.”
Lin noticed that a few people ahead of him in line had been rejected. He owes his successful admission to “being honest.”
“Many Chinese choose a business visa because they think it’s easier to get,” Lin says. “They prepare lots of materials and even entrust intermediary agencies to prepare materials. But the business visa officer will ask many questions. If there are any fake materials, they’ll likely be scrutinized. But visa officers don’t focus on your materials. They look at you to gauge whether you’re lying or not.”
After Lin’s scouting trip, he set out for the U.S. with his wife and daughter to give birth to their new baby.
The U.S. is home to many “confinement centers” that house these pregnant women in cities with large Chinese communities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. To save housing costs, many Chinese mothers will go to the U.S. late in their pregnancy, even though it might raise alarm bells for customs officials.
Lin had thought going through customs would be easy at any entry point in the United States, so he chose to go through San Francisco without thinking much about it. But that may actually be the most difficult entry point of all.
The official he met was a Mexican-American man, who, Lin asserts, was probably worried that an influx of immigrants would harm his own minority community’s interests. But since his wife was already seven months pregnant and honesty had worked well in obtaining the visa, Lin decided to stick with the truth. When asked why his family was coming to America, he replied, “to give birth.”
The official pressed him, asking why they didn’t choose London or Morocco. When Lin tried to explain it was because of China’s family planning policy, the official said, “China’s policy has nothing to do with American law.”
The official went on to say that he was an American taxpayer, so why should Chinese people who don’t pay taxes enjoy the benefits of America’s health care system? Lin immediately responded that he had the ability to pay all costs and slapped down a bank deposit in English showing he had $100,000.
After a bit more interrogation, they were admitted. In hindsight, Lin says it would have been better to go through customs in Los Angeles rather than San Francisco, Seattle or Hawaii.
The American dream
Because of work commitments, Lin couldn’t stay with his wife for the three months she was to be in the U.S., so he arranged for her to stay at a Los Angeles confinement center. The center was a detached villa with a yard, swimming pool and separate rooms for up to four mothers. There were also nannies on hand to cook and take care of the women. More high-end confinement centers sometimes even feature nutritionists, doctors, nurses and specialists in child development.
Lin paid a lump sum of 130,000 yuan ($21,227) for his wife’s stay at the center and hired a nanny to look after her and the baby. The nanny was from Beijing but had been in the U.S. for years. Local rates for these nannies run from $2,000 to 3,000 per month.
For many Chinese families, the potential payoff for having an American baby is well worth these investments. But they tend to have overly lofty expectations — often stoked by intermediary agencies — of what U.S. citizenship for their child will bring. The agencies will tout the marvelous “American dream” and advertise with slogans like, “Just invest 200,000 yuan, and you’ll get tens of millions of dollars in return.”
But during his time in the U.S., Lin realized that the country is in fact quite competitive and ill suited to lazy people. He learned that if you want your child to go to universities like Harvard or Stanford, it requires a lot of effort, especially when the child has the disadvantage of foreign parents. “Having U.S. citizenship doesn’t mean you can have the American dream,” he says. “These are two different things.”
Translated by Zhu Na
The Economic Observer is a weekly Chinese-language newspaper founded in April 2001. It is one of the top business publications in China. The main editorial office is based in Beijing, China. Inspired by the Financial Times of Britain, the newspaper is printed on peach-colored paper.
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Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
October 18, 2021
Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.
[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.
• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.
• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.
• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.
• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.
• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.
• Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good
Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.
⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials
.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.
✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."
— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.
📈💥 IN OTHER NEWS
Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians
The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:
⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.
☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.
🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.
Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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