Chinese and Japanese youngsters: Who is fitter?

By Li Aixin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/9 5:03:40

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

Are Chinese children becoming sick men of East Asia? A recent story by Japanese news outlet Diamond online comparing the physical fitness of Chinese and Japanese youths triggered a heated debate.

It started with the heavy snow in Tokyo last month. When photos of the city, blanketed by snow, were seen in China, what concerned people was not the rare snowstorm, but young girls wearing mini-skirts in such extreme weather. The report said the ability to endure cold has more than once impressed Chinese tourists, making them believe that young Japanese people are stronger than Chinese teenagers.

According to Diamond, Chinese children wear too many layers of clothing until they can barely move, which makes them sweat. They are spoiled and always get what they want, such as burgers and fries. When they don't want to eat, their parents chase them around in an attempt to make them consume the food. In winter, pediatric departments in major hospitals are always full of patients.

The article concluded that amid an economic boom and rapidly improving living standard, China's children are becoming physically frail.

Many Japanese readers were shocked to realize the difference in physical dexterity between youngsters of the two countries. Yet Chinese netizens refuted comparisons. They said the temperate marine climate in Japan and continental monsoon climate of China are totally incomparable.

Instead of saying Japanese kids are stronger, the explanation - frostbite is rarely seen in Tokyo - is perhaps more accurate, Chinese netizens said, adding that "Japanese kids should try to wear mini-skirts in Northeast China now and then decide who is stronger." Nevertheless, other aspects of Chinese children, which are mentioned in the story, do make some sense.

Many of my friends are working moms. Their children are taken care of by their grandparents, who just want to prevent little ones from getting sick. When you ask them how, the response normally is by "putting on more clothes and getting them well fed." Besides, out of ardent love, they tend to do everything for their grandchildren, including making them eat and dressing them up.

Sometimes, moms and dads also behave in the same way. Worse, Chinese adults nowadays tend to pay more attention to their next generation's academic performance than on physical education or sports activities.

The post-80s generation was also described as future sick men of East Asia once due to similar reasons. However, look at them now. They are leading successful professional lives and frequently visit fitness centers.

We are not sick men, and it is believed that our next generation won't be sick either. Admittedly, there are quite a few problems in the way we raise our children, but those are surely not the whole picture.

This winter, I've seen quite a few toddlers running and playing in my neighborhood and parks. On a frigid day last week, I saw a group of boys, about five years old, playing football in thin jerseys, jumping to give their coach a high five.

Watching them, I cannot help but hope my boy can grow up like them. I will be concerned with whether he will be good at math or make a lot of friends, but that he has a strong physique is my biggest wish for him. Compared to tutorial class, I would be happier if he is more interested in ball games, taekwondo or skiing.

Granted, some Chinese children are quite spoiled. But there are more rational parents who understand the problems and are exploring scientific ways to raise their kids.

As for mini-skirts or shorts in the Chinese winter, well, I would prefer a pair of trousers. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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