We have all seen them: adorable Chinese girls holding the hands of their usually elderly, often overweight, but definitely doting) Caucasian parents, strolling the streets from New York to New South Wales, growing up in a white, white world, far away from the land and culture where they were born.Elderly? Overweight? Doting? Oh, well, three out of three it is! I can live for that . . . but not for long, considering I'm elderly!
In some ways, they are a permanent blot on the image of China: surplus daughters
the country couldn’t care for, unintended consequences of the 30-year-old “one-child” policy that led to the abandonment of hundreds of thousands if not millions of female infants at birth. But now, as the balance of global economic and political power shifts subtly in favour of China, Beijing is reaching out to all these lost daughters – and welcoming them back home.
China has invited thousands of foundlings back to their birthplaces for government-sponsored “homeland tours” which, like last year’s Beijing Olympics or next year’s Shanghai World Expo, give the country a chance to show off to the world. On one level, what the Chinese adoption authorities call “root seeking tours” – filled with extravagant expressions of love and kinship and lavish gifts for the returning orphans – are a transparent public relations exercise aimed at raising money for Chinese orphanages, justifying the decision to export surplus children and countering decades of unfair international criticism that Chinese people “hate girls”.
But for the children involved – one of whom is my nine-year-old daughter, Grace Shu Min, who attended a 20-year reunion at her orphanage in March, along with two of her closest orphanage friends – their hometown trip was more like therapy. China put its best foot forward for the returning children (all girls), treating them like celebrities, showering them with presents, laying on magicians and puppet shows, kindness and warmth. It was the kind of mythical homecoming we all hope for – but few can ever achieve.
Still, interesting story of the value of homeland tours, sprinkled with snarky and cynical commentary, for those, like me, who like that sort of thing.
UPDATE: Be sure to read Jae Ran Kim's take on this article at Harlow's Monkey.