Girl or boy? What do Chinese couples prefer?

What gender do Chinese couples prefer for a first child? I must admit that until now I had assumed the conventional wisdom of the international media: traditional Chinese couples, especially in rural areas, prefer a boy first. Indeed, such an image suggests they will go to the extent of seeking illegal abortion if they know that the embryo will be a girl. Or, if they do have a girl first, they can have another baby in the hope that it will be a boy. The reason: the family’s name, tradition and inheritance passes down through the male line, so a boy is the pride of a couple – given that traditional Chinese society is hopelessly patriarchal

Recently, I heard a somewhat different perspective from a woman who grew up in the countryside, where traditional practices have a greater hold.

‘A couple prefers a girl first’, she said.

‘What?’ I said. ‘I thought a boy was more desirable’.

‘No,’ she said. ‘The birth of a girl is a great relief for the couple in question, especially if they are of modest means’.

‘Why?’ I said.

‘If a boy is born’, she said, ‘the parents already have nightmares about the costs involved’.

Now I was truly puzzled. ‘Do Chinese boys demand more?’

She laughed. ‘Not in that way’, she said. ‘If a boy is born, then the parents know that later they will have to pay for a wedding, if not a house for the couple. It can cost quite a lot’.

‘So they prefer a girl first’, I said.

‘Yes’, she said. ‘Then they can relax a little’.

‘What about the second child?’ I said.

‘Well’, she said. ‘If they have a boy first and then decide to have a second child, then they worry endless whether it too will be a boy’.

‘That would clearly be too much’, I said. ‘So they sweat out the possibility of the second child also being a boy’.

‘Yes’, she said.

‘But what if they have a girl first?’ I said.

‘Then there is less worry’, she said. ‘If a boy is born then, then that is manageable’.

‘And a girl for the second child?’ I said.

‘That is the easiest’, she said.

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2 thoughts on “Girl or boy? What do Chinese couples prefer?

  1. Nice to see a different view from the one we have always been told. I recall documentaries ‘discovering’ abandoned girl babies, tied to chairs in orphanages. The real voice of the Chinese lady puts this into perspective.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. There are plenty of stories like that, and I have actually heard some Chinese city people opine that country people like a boy first. However, the woman in question grew up in a poor family in a country village, so it offers a distinctly different perspective.

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