Amy Chua’s Suicide Critics

January 23, 2011

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

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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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