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Chinese culture is traditionally centred on the family, which was once considered a microcosm of society as a whole. In past Chinese society, the family provided support for every family member, including livelihood and long-term security. Extended family remains exceedingly important, with grandparents commonly acting as caretakers for grandchildren with adult children working and financially supporting their ageing parents. The end of cradle-to-grave welfare (the 'iron rice bowl') has brought increasing pressure on families who struggle to meet the rising costs of health care and education.
Economic pressures have had an impact on many young Chinese who are putting off marriage or having children until they've acquired enough money to ensure their financial security. It's estimated that today 14% of Chinese urban households consist of a single adult or childless couple who both work. The rapid development of the 1990s has raised the standard of living for many Chinese, who now face a dazzling array of choices in consumer items and experience a lifestyle very different from earlier generations.
nately, recent educational and economic opportunities are only available to a small
segment of the population. The majority of Chinese live in the countryside, shut off from
the benefits of
There are few government programmes in place to help rural towns and villages, where farmers are expected to pay tor their own health care and the education of their children. This unequal treatment has spurred many rural families to move to the cities to try and find work, where they often find low-paying jobs in unsafe conditions. The government has promised to address these devastating trends, but few incentives have been put in place.
While all of this sounds pretty bleak, development has also had some positive effects. With an increasingly open society, and with, more exposure to the outside world, the Chinese are finding new forms of self-expression that were previously frowned upon by the communist authorities. Artists and writers are freeing themselves from earlier politi- cal restraints, contributing to a burgeoning literary and art scene that has been stifled for many years.
Censorship is still common, though what defines something as 'taboo' or 'off limits' can be arbitrary.
Chinese women suffer from low political representation and strict family policies (see
China's gay and lesbian community is also taking steps to ensure its rights as citizens. Homosexuality in