Left-Behind Children in China: The Consequence of Economic Gap


By: Vincent

“There is little possibility that I come back to my hometown,” Tao Long said, “if any, at least the capital of my province.”

Coming from Bijie, Guizhou Province, a typical western city in China, Tao is now studying in Xiamen, a typical Southeast city in China with a relatively higher living standard.

Actually, Bijie, Tao’s hometown, is a special place in Chinese society for it has been reported many times on the issue of left-behind children. In 2012, 5 left-behind children starved to death in dustbin while in 2014, 12 left-behinds were raped by their teachers. In 2015, it was reported that four left-behind cousins committed suicide by taking poisons. It is now regarded as a symbol of left-behind children.

rural-children in chinaAs a result of the huge gap of economic development between the eastern and western areas in China, millions of western people migrate to eastern cities to struggle for their lives, leaving their children behind in their rural hometowns. According to a state statistics published in 2014, there are 61,000,000 left-behind children in China. That means one in five children is left-behind in China. What’s worse, 9,000,000 of them cannot see their parents in a year.

Without the care and love their parents, this group of children presents a series of problems.

“It is not surprise that many kids of my neighbor play truant, steal and rob. Villagers always forgive them because of sympathy,” Tao said, “it’s hard for them to develop a healthy personality.”

The real situation is far more severe. Recent years have witnessed a great number of left-behind children commit crimes at a astonishingly small age. According to a statistics published by Supreme Court in 2013, 70% of the juvenile crimes were conducted by left-behind children. Lacking the love of their parents, many of them become lonely and sensitive. When stuck in negative emotion, they can hardly find an consolation. It is a vicious circle contributing to various tragedies.


“Many parents have attached increasing importance on education”, Tao explained, “however, it’s hard to change the situation as long as their parents leave. Some believe that this problem can be solved by government financial support, but it is their parents’ company not the money that really matters.”

Basically, this problem is hardly solved if the huge gap between the western and eastern still exists.”Take me as an example,” Tao said, “There is little possibility that I come back to my hometown, if any, at least Guiyang, the capital of my province.”

That is a dilemma for Chinese society. The more excellent the student is, the less likely he or she will go back to his or her hometown. ”I concede that it is not so bad to live in a small town like my hometown” Tao explained, “however, you should consider more about your offspring, who may not be as fortunate as you.”

China has taken many measures and “target-area student” is one of these policies. These students sign a contract with colleges before they enter. When they graduate from college, they are distributed to their hometown or some other western areas, where economy and education lag behind. In return, government pays for their studying fees during the college.

However, as a state-level control, the effect of this policy is controversial. “Many people think this policy is not reasonable and effective,” Xu Zhou, an assistant professor of Education Institute in Xiamen University commented, “First, students can break the promise at a relatively low cost; second, it is unfair for those students, who can hardly determine whether they really want or fit to be a teacher just after graduation from high school. Free change is misleading for those poor families to some extent.”

“I think the only outlet is that the government removes the priority from the development of economy to the narrow of the gap between the rich and the poor.” Tao said, “as Li Keqiang once said, we will not bear that on the one side there are skyscrapers while on the other still shabby slums.”

Note: In China, “the left-behind children” is a scattered phenomenon that does not exist nationwide. As a large country, it happens in places where there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor.


Footnote: This feature writing course has been cited from students’ feature stories at Xiamen University in China, supervised by a lecturer, Dr. Siti Suriani Othman of USIM (Malaysia University of Islamic Sciences), as a Visiting Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, Xiamen University, China, from 3 November to 27 December 2015.

Vincent is a Third Year Student at the School of Journalism and Communication, Xiamen University, China.




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