Amy Chua’s Suicide Critics

Some critics of Amy Chua blame the so-called high rate of suicides in China as an argument that Chinese/Asian Tough Love is wrong.

I suspect these ignorant critics don’t know much about Chinese culture or the most common reasons for suicides in China or countries such as Japan.

Most of the suicides in China are not caused by loving Tiger Mothers that spend hours a day emphasizing education above all else instead of allowing children to watch hours of TV and/or playing video games while ignoring books and homework as in the US. 

Those suicides are results of cultural pressures that go far beyond Tough Love. Loss of face and/or becoming a failure is often the reason one commits suicide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that the suicide rate in China in 1999 was 28 of every 100,000 people.

In the US, that number was 21.7 per 100,000.  The WHO shows that the Ukraine has a much higher rate than either China or the US at 62.1 per 100,000 with the Russian Federation reporting more than 80 per 100,000.

I suspect poverty and oppression are a stronger reason than loving but strict Tiger Mothers.

Thailand, with its share of Asian Tiger Mothers, was eight per 100,000. Singapore was 18.9 while Japan was 50.6

China was almost tied with Sweden’s suicide rate, which was 27.7 per 100,000.

However, China and Japan almost tied for female suicides at 14.8 for China and 14.1 for Japan.

What could be the cause?  Possibly children like Amy Chua’s youngest daughter Lulu rebelling until the mother is so depressed she takes her life because she considers herself a failure.

Maybe writing Battle Cry of the Tiger Mother was Chua’s way to deal with the sense of failure she must have felt when Lulu broke that drinking glass in Moscow and shouted at her mother she hated her for being so strict. If so, writing a memoir is better than suicide and writing is a great way to deal with depression.

The WHO shows Australia has a higher suicide rate than China at 37.1 per 100,000. Why didn’t Amy Chua’s critics point this out? I suspect the reason is that they are too lazy to do the research. After all, learning something new might take time away from watching TV or social networking on Facebook.


Moreover, the number of women committing suicide in Lithuania in 2000 was 16.1 per 100,000. Sri Lanka suicide rate was 16.8 women and 44.6 for men.

I know of one Chinese suicide first hand and an attempted suicide by a Japanese woman. Both took place in California, and the reasons had nothing to do with Tiger Mothers.

The high school where I taught had a high percentage of Philippine students. I taught many and Philippine mothers often practice Tough Love as Amy Chua does.  I had one Philippine girl break into tears when she earned an A- on a test. She made it up by doing all the extra credit, which Amy Chua says isn’t an option in China.

The WHO says the suicide rate in the Philippines in 1993 was 4.2 per 100,000 people. Do you see the decimal between the four and the two?  That number is more than five times lower than the suicide rate in the US.

I’m shocked!

What could America’s Politically Correct Self-esteem driven mothers be doing wrong? After all, who else could we blame for the gap between US suicides and those in the Philippines except America’s mushy soft-love mothers.

When our straight “A” student, Chinese-American daughter was nine, we were hiking along trails in the hills near our Southern California home. She rushed ahead of us on the winding path until we lost sight of her.

Then she came running back saying there was a man hanging from a tree and he looked dead. 

My friend Neil and I hurried to the hanging tree. While Neil climbed into the tree to see if the man was alive, I called 911.

When the police arrived, they searched the dead man’s wallet and called his mother’s house. It turns out that he was an architect from Taiwan. My wife speaks Mandarin and the police asked her to talk to the wife and the mother, who spoke no English. We discovered that his Taiwanese company had gone bankrupt and he had taken his life due to loss of face because he saw himself as a failure. He was at least 40 if not older.

The second incident I read of was mentioned in the media a few years back.

A Japanese woman had taken her young children to the end of Santa Monica pier and leaped into the ocean taking her children with her. Surfers managed to save her but her young children died.

The reason for attempting suicide was that her husband, a Japanese executive working in the US, had an affair. When the Japanese wife discovered her husband was cheating, she saw herself as a failure, and the only way to erase the shame was to kill herself and her children. 

Since she was a Japanese citizen, Japan requested that she be returned to Japan. The reason given was due to cultural differences.

Learn from In Defense of Tiger Mothers Everywhere


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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6 Responses to Amy Chua’s Suicide Critics

  1. Behind the Story says:

    I lived in the Philippines for fifteen years. I saw a lot of poverty and a lot of happiness. I’m not surprised that the Philippines has a low suicide rate. Filipinos have close, supportive family relationships. They like to party and have fun together with family and friends.

    • I think this is proof that poverty doesn’t always mean you have to suffer. What’s more important: 1. a loving supportive family 2. money to buy material things

      It is possible for one to live in poverty—meaning by definition you don’t earn or have much money—and not go hungry or suffer from malnutrition.

      Money doesn’t always equal happiness. Sometimes too much money leads to mental anguish and misery because you want more to buy more toys.

      Rural China is proof of this. Many people in China do not have much money to spend on “material things” but they have each other and in the last few decades enough food to avoid starvation and malnutrition that once plagued China for thousands of years until the 1980s. Maybe the poor in China don’t have the money to buy six packs of Pepsi; Coke and candy, but is that a bad thing?

      Have you seen the world’s Happiness Index? The United States was ranked #17 on a list of 156. Mexico was happier than the United States. Number 1 was Denmark; #2 Norway; #3 Switzerland; #4 Netherlands; #5 Sweden, and six was Canada

      And Mexico’s government estimates that 33% of Mexico’s population lives in moderate poverty and 9% in extreme poverty. By comparison, in November 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the U.S. population lived in poverty in the United States and 1.2% lived in extreme poverty. But Mexico was ranked happier than the United States.

      Click to access WorldHappinessReport2013_online.pdf

      After looking at how the list was compiled we may not agree with the methods but those methods were used to compare most of the countries of the world.

  2. East Asian Woman says:

    What world-highest young female suicide rate nations have in common? China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore

    East Asian mindset.

    Older Penis Entitlement.

    Female hatred / inferiority built into language, especially curses.

    Females are strong, giving, take on excessive psychological burden, self-blame, high tolerance for long term pain.

    These females are carrier of pain and shame and guilt on behalf of their male members. Yet they are also trained to endure and NOT SHOW THE PAIN until it is too late. The male members are extremely spoiled and narcissistic. Clueless to the pain.

    Yet the women are too “selfless”. So when it snaps, all the pain and aggression cannot be directed to the source of rage, and the rage is turned against oneself. Children, as usual perceived as extension or limbs, being dragged along on suicide missions, are classic empathetic feticide.

    But empathy which cannot be directed to soothe the self, means the women here are not really empathetic. They are self-haters.

    East Asian females suffer from severe self-hatred due to cultural programming, Asian culture, AND Hollywood culture.

    Suicide is directly linked to NEGLECT and a sense of INVISIBILITY.

    • East Asian Woman,

      According to the most recent global suicide rates, you are wrong about women killing themselves in higher rates than men in East Asia. Maybe at a younger age the suicide rate is higher but the total suicide rate for women of all ages is not higher. In fact, it is lower, and I have read that one of the primary reasons Asian teens kill themselves is pressure to do well in school.

      In 2008, China’s suicide rate for men was 19.7, while women were 8 per 100,000 — more than twice as many men killed themselves as women and this ratio holds true for most countries.

      In fact, since Mao announced in 1950 that women held up half the sky and legally made women equal to men, the suicide rates of women in China has improved dramatically as you can see.

      Many countries that are not in East Asia have higher suicide rates — For example: Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Russia, Guyana, Ukraine, Hungry, Latvia, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro, Finland, Belgium, France, Estonia, Sweden, and more.

      In 2005, in the United States, 17.7 men killed themselves while only 4.5 women took their lives of every 100,000 people and Asian-Americans have the lowest suicide rates in the United States when compared to all other ethnic groups and even then, more Asia-American men kill themselves than women.

      IN 2007, Japan’s suicide rate was 35.8 men for every 13.7 women per 100,000.

      In 2002, Thailand’s suicide rate was 12 men for every 3.8 women per 100,000.

      In 2006, Singapore’s suicide rate was 12.0 men for every 7.7 women per 100,000.

      In 1998 (the last time India reported its suicide rate), 12.2 men to 9.1 women killed themselves for each 100,000.

      In 1993 (the last reported numbers on record), The Philippines suicide rate was 2.5 for men and 1.7 for women for each 100,000 people — one of the lowest suicide rates in the world.


      In 2005, suicides in Taiwan were 34.6 for men and 15.7 for women per 100,000 people.


      In 2006, the suicide rate in South Korea (Republic of Korea) was 29.7 men and 14.1 women per 100,000 people. And, if you look at the source I have provided, you will discover the only time young girls killed themselves in higher numbers than teenage boys, was between the ages of 5 – 14 (Fifteen boys killed themselves and twenty-one girls).

      In the next age bracket from 14 – 24, 342 teenage boys killed themselves compared to 286 girls of the same age.

      The total of all ages was boys/men 7,249 to 3,439 women/girls. Between the ages of 45-54, men killed themselves more than three times that of women suicides.


  3. miyako blahblah says:

    you are an idiot. these people believe they are failures because they are brought up that way. anything lower than the best is failure. they suicide because they believe that they have failed in life. but have they? i need help because my mother never loved me. and that makes me hate her. and i’m only half asian. don’t make judgements before you know what goes on inside the minds of those who have suffered like this. sometimes it can go well.. other times…

    • Thank you for your judgment and opinion of “you are an idiot.”

      It takes one to know one and I don’t know you so I would not call you “an idiot” even if you were one.

      “don’t make judgments before you know what goes on inside the minds…”

      I made no judgments regarding individual cases, as it appears that you have done regarding me. Read the post carefully. I suspect your literacy level and vocabulary are not sufficient to understand the context of what I wrote. You may even be a disturbed teen.

      I said, “Most of the suicides (in China) are not caused by loving Tiger Mothers that spend hours a day emphasizing education above all else instead of allowing children to watch hours of TV and/or playing video games while ignoring books and homework as in the US.”

      “Most” is not “all”

      In the US, many studies and statistics show us that the “average” American parent (which means about half) talks to his or her child less than five minutes a day while the “average” American Child spends about 10 hours a day having what Americans consider “FUN” watching TV, playing video games, social networking on sites such as Facebook or sending hundreds of text messages a day.

      This is a profile of the “norm” or “average” parent and child in the US.

      I also provided numbers to show that China does not have the highest suicide rate in the world as some critics of China or Amy Chua have claimed

      In fact (something I discovered later when writing on a similar topic), in the US, the suicide rate among Asian-Americans is one of the lowest in the country (6 per 100,000) while Caucasians kill themselves (more than 13 per 100,000) at almost twice the rate.

      If the average American-Caucasian parents does not parent the same as the average Asian-American parent and/or mainland Chinese parents, what is the reason Caucasians kill themselves twice as often?

      Since there are more than 223 million Caucasians in the US and 14.5 million Asian-Americans, that means almost 30,000 Caucasians killed themselves annually compared to 870 Asian-American suicides.

      In fact, Australia, which is mostly populated by European Caucasians, has a suicide rate way above China at 37.1 per 100,000 as I stated in the post.

      Then I provided two examples from reality—the Chinese business man that killed himself due to the failure of his Taiwanese business and the Japanese wife and mother.

      Since I wrote this post, I have also learned that Asian-Americans have the lowest incidence of serious mental illness in the US compared with Caucasians that have the highest rates of serious mental illness.

      Asian-Americans also have the lowest rates of alcohol and drug abuse, the lowest rates of STDs, HIV/AIDS and the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy while having the highest graduate rate from high school and college.

      I suggest you read what Dr. Jean M. Twenge has to say on this topic in the piece she wrote for Psychology Today.

      Why Chinese Mothers Really Are Superior (On Average)
      Dr. Twenge says, “It’s not stereotyping when it’s right” – Published January 18, 2011

      The key is the word “average”, which I do not believe Amy Chua used in her memoir when she compared her method of parenting to being Chinese.

      In fact, the “average” Asian-American parent raises his or her children differently than the “average” American parent. Statistics show this to be true repeatedly. Amy Chua is closer to the Asian-American average-parenting model than the “average” for all parents in America. Amy Chua is excessive only in that she spent more time with her daughters and used extreme measures to force her daughters to excel at academics and meaningful extracurricular actives such as learning how to play the piano or violin at extreme levels of performance, which they did since the mother as the parent set the bar. The higher the parent sets the bar, the more time the parent will have to spend with his or her children.

      Remember, there are about 14 million Asian-Americans in the US which has a population over 300 million. As measured by outcomes, the two averages of the two parenting models are different and the outcomes are different.

      Dr. Twenge says, “These commenters fell victim to a classic flaw in reasoning: The idea that a few counter-examples disprove the general rule. They don’t. On average, Asian parents use more discipline and insist upon hard work more than Western parents. And on average, their kids do better.”


      You wrote, “i need help because my mother never loved me. and that makes me hate her. and i’m only half asian.”

      Does this mean you are half Asian-American and you had a rebellious youth where you defied your mother and/or father’s parenting methods? Is your mother the Asian or your father and what race and parenting style was the non-Asian parent?

      All of these factors play a role in why you may be angry and depressed.

      When the child that has a Tiger Parent grows up among peers (at school) that have the average soft American parent, the Asian-American child often sees how these children are spoiled and allowed to have so much fun and resents his or her parent/s because he or she cannot do the same. This leads to resentment, depression and anger for the Asian-American child.

      However, when the average child is treated the same as in China due to tougher old-world parenting methods, the child would react differently without the resentment that I sense in your words “that makes me hate her”.

      I suggest your response to my post regarding “Some critics of Amy Chua blame the so-called high rate of suicides in China as an argument that Chinese/Asian Tough Love is wrong” is an emotional response due to feeling unloved by your mother and that you need help because of that.

      I suggest you go see a psychiatrist and get some help.

      Whatever happened between you and your mother is something that I know nothing of and is an individual case as Dr. Twenge says, “these commenters fell victim to a classic flaw in reasoning…”

      I’m sure that some of the suicides among Asian-Americans are caused by depression and anger due to not being able to cope with a parenting style that sets the bar high but that does not mean all Asian-American or Chinese suicides are caused by that reason. Each case is an individual one.

      Yet, what explains the HUGE difference in suicide rates between children raised by the average Asian-American Tiger Parent and those raised by the average indulgent, obsessive self-esteem driven American-Caucasian parent?

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

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