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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

PROFILE OF A PRINCESS


ZHAO XIN IS ON the fast track to success, and the pace is wearing her thin. The 12-year-old, who is in an advanced class at Beijing's No. 122 Middle School, placed tenth out of 300 students in her mid-term exams. By year's end, she hopes to be among the top five. Xin is also aiming for university, so she spends evenings tapping away on the keyboard of her $1,100 computer and Saturday mornings practicing English. Xin's grandmother, Wang Shuying, is bewildered by the pace. "I pity children nowadays," Wang says. "School demands are too heavy and they have little time to enjoy themselves."

Xin's parents, however, encourage their daughter to keep on pushing, though they say they don't want to determine her future. "I want her to develop freely," says Xin's mother, Ma Zhimin. Her father, Zhao Eryong, a taxi driver turned entrepreneur, agrees. "Xin can do whatever she wants," says Zhao, a once-promising student who was sent to toil in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution. "All I want is for her to have a much easier life than I had."

Materially, she already does. Though her parents' combined income is relatively modest (Xin's mother works for the city's power company), the girl's shelves are stacked with books and toys. When she was six, her parents bought her a piano and, more recently, the computer. "We have only this child," explains her grandmother, who lives in the next apartment block and looks after Xin while her parents are at work. "We will buy whatever is beneficial for her, even if we have to skimp and save."

Xin still feels she is lacking one thing: parental attention. With tears in her eyes, the only child says she sometimes feels isolated. Her mother doesn't let her go out alone at night to meet friends because of the fear of gangs, or spend much time on the phone. "My friends and I all feel that our parents don't care enough about us," she says. "They are only concerned about how well we do in school." Xin's parents acknowledge the attention deficit. "My generation is trying to make it in business now," Xin's father explains. "We often can't devote much time to our children." Still, he adds wistfully, it can't be helped. "As she grows older," he predicts, "she'll be able to understand us better."

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