Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Boyfriend a “Little Emperor?”

Little Emperor
Dating a Little Emperor? An American woman wonders what's up with her self-absorbed Chinese boyfriend.

The Emperor’s Girlfriend asks:

I’m an American who has lived in China for several years and has recently started dating a Chinese man (about 4 months ago).  I entered into the relationship somewhat hesitantly but hopefully, determined to “sniff out the air” before really committing to a relationship.  Since the beginning a few things have kind of bothered me but I have only recently been able to put my finger on it.  I’m dating one of China’s “Little Emporer’s” all grown up (28 and not an only child but near enough…his sister is 10 years younger…and even he admits he’s the family favorite).

No, he’s not a spoiled-rotten, tantrum-throwing ego-maniac. There’s no way I would put up with that.  But, there’s a certain self-centric way of looking at things: from a near-sulkiness when a plan doesn’t go the way he expected (it dissapates quickly but not before I’ve caught a glimpse in his tone or his face) to a love of praise and often an expection that praise should come even for the smallest thing.  There are other, more specific examples but I see a man who struggles to put the needs/thoughts of others before his own.

He’s not without merits: he can be very kind (just don’t thwart and a plan or an assumption of a plan or witness Mr. Sulky), he’s very devoted and close to his family (a fact which I find extremely admirable and freaks me out at the same time) and many others. But he does have trouble sympathizing with others, has a confidence that strays at times into arrogance, and I wonder if the generosity I see him show is only motivated by the fact that it gains the admiration of others.

I’ve studied and read about the socialological implications of the One-Child policy and the effects of Birth Order on personality and relationships (I’m a quinnessential middle child), but seeing the results of a child, now man, who has clearly been doted upon, up close and personal has me reeling a bit and has caused us to bump heads more than once.

I’m curious to hear your opinion on this. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Boyfriend a “Little Emperor?””

China’s ‘Little Emperors’: Children in country tend to be indulged by families

Many grandparents in China help raise their young grandchildren. Here, Yu Huimin holds his grandson Yu Kaiqi during Chinese New Year.
Many grandparents in China help raise their young grandchildren. Here, Yu Huimin holds his grandson Yu Kaiqi during Chinese New Year.

This is the concluding article in a four-part series of articles providing a snapshot of modern life in China in observance of October 1, 2009, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It was published October 11, 2009 in the Insight section of the Idaho State Journal


It was Chinese New Year 2003 when I first met Yu Kaiqi, the boy who would become my nephew. Almost a year old, he was bundled up in endless layers, like a silkworm cocoon — and just as precious to my future father-in-law, Yu Huimin, 61, who carried him everywhere. I was stunned. If this boy were in the US, his parents and grandparents would have been letting him teeter and totter on the floor, taking his first steps to explore the world. But not here. For almost the entire day, he was tucked safely away in his doting grandfather’s arms.

Today, Yu Kaiqi, now seven years old, is still the family’s center of attention — but for all the wrong reasons. Throwing objects at the teacher. Lying. Sassing his parents. Daily temper tantrums. Not going to bed on time.

Unfortunately, Yu Kaiqi is no anomaly in China. Some studies, including a 2006 paper from Jinan University, suggest that 11 percent of young Chinese children misbehave. Others, including a 2002 Qingdao University paper, put the figure at 23 percent. Suppose you apply that lowest estimate — 11 percent — to the 2000 China census count of 95 million two- to seven-year-olds. That adds up to as many as 10 million Chinese children troubling their families.

And when they’re vexed by a naughty child, families look for explanations. Jin Genxiu, my 55-year-old mother-in-law, believes Yu Kaiqi’s bad temperament is the cause. Yu Huimin blames the school environment and declining standards in society. But there’s a culprit more close to home: parenting. Continue reading “China’s ‘Little Emperors’: Children in country tend to be indulged by families”