The Year of the Dragon is behind a spike in birth rates – and there’s only one way to avoid the one-child policy and get better medical care. In Beijing, Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore reports on the rise of maternity tourism
March 10, 2012
Zhang Xuemei is just three-months pregnant but has already decided not to have her baby in her native China. Instead, the housewife and her husband, Wei Zhonghai, a wealthy mining boss, are paying tens of thousands of dollars to give birth to their third child in the United States.
Ms Zhang and Mr Wei, both 40, are just one of a growing number of anxious Chinese couples willing to spend from 100,000 to 250,000 Chinese renminbi (£10,000 to £25,000) to give birth abroad, paying 20 times more than the average cost of delivering a child at home. They have turned to a Beijing-based agency that offers services for “birth tourists” keen to travel to the US.
The benefits are myriad. Chinese parents giving birth in the US can skirt China’s one-child policy – a priority for couples such as Ms Zhang and Mr Wei, who might otherwise face an exorbitant fine by the Communist government. Going to the US buys top-notch healthcare and, above all, secures automatic birthright citizenship for their baby. Once children turn 21 they can petition the government for permanent-residence status for their parents.
“We want to provide our children with more choices. If they are born in the US they will have more choices,” says Mr Wei, who lives with his family in Hebei province. “And in the hospital we will get a better service than if the baby is born in China.” The couple is currently weighing up two destinations, California and Saipan, a US island territory in the Pacific Ocean which is a cheaper option. “Los Angeles is better,” Mr Wei says. “Better shopping, right?”