This story is touching and sad. It also highlights why a lot of people are in favor of things like Social Security and other government interventions. Such heart wrenching tales make it hard to argue against them from a logical perspective. It becomes all emotion. Reasonably so I think. “Han Zicheng survived the Japanese invasion, the Chinese civil war and the Cultural Revolution, but he knew he could not endure the sorrow of living alone.” So he put up a sign advertising his strong points and why someone should take him.
“Looking for someone to adopt me. Lonely old man in his 80s. Strong-bodied. Can shop, cook and take care of himself. No chronic illness. I retired from a scientific research institute in Tianjin, with a monthly pension of 6,000 RMB [$950] a month. I won’t go to a nursing home. My hope is that a kindhearted person or family will adopt me, nourish me through old age and bury my body when I’m dead.”
But his plight is a result of his government’s policies. Specifically China’s One Child policy where families were only allowed one child each family. This also lead to many girls being killed or sold off secretly because a male child was stronger and could earn more. “It’s a demographic crisis that threatens China’s economy and the fabric of family life. Businesses must chug along with fewer workers. A generation of single children care for aging parents on their own. ”
It got so bad that China had to make it mandatory to visit one’s parents under penalty of law. China’s Cultural Revolution (think communism) changed the old ways in China where children always took care of their aging parents. The government, says Han, has not come up with a new plan. How could it? How could government come up with a better plan than the one developed over thousands of years of culture?
In the end Hu died alone. Before his passing he said, “Elderly people are like flowers and trees. If we are not watered, we cannot grow.” He went to his grave feeling his government had failed him. He was right of course – it had.
An entire generation in China is aging without enough support.