A little emperor （Xiǎo Huángdì 小皇帝） is a child in China who grew up as an only child. Little emperors are expected to generally be fatter, more spoiled, and much more the center of attention in the family than generations before them.
The phenomenon has two main causes. First, the one child policy that was introduced in 1976 (Lim). This required families to have only one child. It was common in the generation before to have four or more children. The penalties for having more than one child could be stiff. Sometimes, this could be forced abortions, harassment, or fines. This was done to control the population because China had been growing too quickly and risked destabilizing the whole country.
The second reason is the increase in wealth in China over the last few decades. Many have come out of poverty and the middle class has grown rapidly. The increase in obesity is also a sign that children aren’t starving as much as they have in previous generations within China.
Some people believe that the lack of siblings creates a child who does not learn to share. They do not need to share what their parents’ attention and money with anyone else. All family resources get poured into a single child (Lim).
Lim, Louisa. “China’s ‘Little Emperors’ Lucky, Yet Lonely in Life.” NPR, NPR, 24 Nov. 2010, https://www.npr.org/2010/11/23/131539839/china-s-little-emperors-lucky-yet-lonely-in-life.