Of all the state-sponsored campaigns of social engineering in the People’s Republic of China, birth planning (jihua shengyu) is perhaps the most dramatic and far-reaching. To date, most studies of the campaign in rural China focus on the powerful and frequently coercive implementation of birth control policies, or on their large-scale demographic consequences. There are, however, few scholarly accounts that examine how individual villagers actually cope with such a dramatic change in everyday practice (Greenhalgh’s research is a noticeable exception).
A closer look at the lived experiences of villagers shows that in their response to the birth control program many had transcended traditional fertility ideals and adjusted their reproductive behavior, while others resisted to it by various strategies and also paid a dear price. What is at stake is the agency of the individual. When facing the intrusion of a powerful state in this intimate sphere of private life, villagers were not merely passive reactors and victims; instead, they made various choices and adopted different strategies. My central question is thus why the differences in choices and strategies? And, what are the consequences and implications of these individual choices and strategies? To address these issues in the following pages, I will first briefly review the development of the birth control campaign in a northern Chinese village during the 1980s and 1990s. Then I will examine how the villagers coped with state policies, arguing that more attention should be paid to individual strategies and internal variations within the village community. In the third section I will analyze the sociocultural factors that have contributed to individual choices and strategies, which also led to the emergence of a new fertility culture.
The present study is based on data collected from a series of fieldtrips conducted from 1989 to 1999 in Xiajia village, Heilongjiang province, northeast China. With a population of 1,492 in 1998, the village remains a farming community after the rural reforms (decollectivization occurred in 1983), but villagers’ livelihood has been closely tied to the market by a new mode of commodity production. To make more profit from farming, villagers all switched to growing high-yield maize that is used as fodder. They sell the maize to the state and private buyers, and then purchase wheat and rice from the market for their own consumption. While some families also produce a small quantity of high-quality grain for consumption, their major cash crop is still maize.
There was no rural industry in Xiajia village under collectivism; several grain processing factories and husbandry units were established in the 1990s, all of which were small family businesses. Secondary occupations provided families with some desperately needed cash income (in which women played the central role). By the summer of 1999, more than 30 percent of Xiajia families were raising dairy cows, selling milk to a joint venture Nestlé factory in the county seat, and several dozen families ran chicken or pig farms. After the late 1980s, seeking temporary jobs in the cities became another important channel for earning cash income and, for those villagers who were too young to receive a share of collective land in 1983, it was also the most plausible way to survive. In 1991 there were 106 Xiajia laborers working regularly outside the village for longer than three months per year; this figure increased to 167 by 1994. The trend continued throughout the second half of the 1990s; an increasing number of unmarried young women also joined the force of temporary migrant laborers, constituting approximately one third of the out-migrant seasonal workers.
Xiajia’s heavy reliance on agriculture has been one of the major obstacles to economic development since decollectivization. The average per capita income in Xiajia remained slightly below the national average ever since the rural reform; it was 528 yuan in 1988 and 616 yuan in 1990, while the national average for these two years was 545 yuan and 623 yuan, respectively. The situation was exacerbated during the 1990s, and the living conditions of most villagers showed little sign of improvement in comparison to the 1980s. Official figures during the same period, however, were less reliable as the village economy stagnated and cadres were under pressure to inflate their achievements. For instance, the reported per capita income in 1997 was 2,700 yuan, a figure that even the village cadres openly admitted to being false. Nevertheless, all villagers I interviewed agreed that living conditions had improved to a great extent in comparison to those of the collectivist period. Some households have been able to take advantage of the new opportunities of the reform era and have become quite affluent in recent years, contrasting sharply with others who have been left behind [Yan 1992].
Two decades of birth planning
In Xiajia and the surrounding areas, the birth control campaign first began in a rather moderate form during the late 1970s, relying mainly on propaganda and educational meetings. Although many villagers openly rejected the idea of birth control, some found it a helpful solution. According to the official records, nine Xiajia women voluntarily underwent sterilization between 1978 and 1979 because they did not wish to have more births.
State policies became much stricter in 1980 and, in order to rapidly reduce the population growth, the single child policy was implemented, first in cities and then expanded to the countryside. In Xiajia village, a fine of 700 yuan was imposed on all those who had second or more births after April 1, 1980. Married women of childbearing age were required to use contraceptives, and newly-wed couples had to apply for permission to have their first child. These policies encountered strong resistance from many villagers whose lifetime goal was to have as many children as possible, especially sons [Li 1993; Wasserstrom 1984]. To reduce the massive discontent and anger, Xiajia Production Brigade had to subsidize 420 yuan of the 700 yuan fine that was imposed on violators.
It was not until 1983 that Xiajia villagers truly experienced the impact of the powerful birth control program. Unlike in the previous years when the focus was on propaganda and education, the emphasis in 1983 was on IUD insertions and female sterilization (tubal legation). All women of childbearing age who had had a son by 1983 had to undergo sterilization, except those with serious health-related problems. Those women whose first child was a girl had to accept IUD insertion. Individual wills were totally ignored. For instance, six middle-aged women had voluntarily used contraceptives long prior to the campaign and they asked to be spared the sterilization because they did not want to have more children in any case. Their requests were rejected and they still had to undergo the operation. There were even rumors of fixed quota for the number of sterilizations in each village. In addition to the government imposed fines, the collectives would punish birth control violators by withholding grain rations and other benefits for newborn children. Most informants agreed that they were terrified by the very strict campaign and few individuals dared to resist.
The collectivized economy had been successful in Xiajia...
By the end of the 1983 campaign, 102 women in Xiajia village had undergone sterilization. This means that virtually every family had either an immediate or a close relative who had had the operation. As informants recalled in the 1990s, anxiety, discontent, grief, and strong feelings of helplessness had been typical emotional responses in 1983. Men who did not have male offspring reacted the most strongly and, for a short period of time, despaired husbands were commonly seen drunk on the streets. Two men screamed in the hospital while their wives were undergoing the operation.
Women suffered even more, as they had to endure both physical and emotional-psychological pain [Greenhalgh 1994]. According to the recollection of female informants, four women were taken to the operation table literally by force when at the last minute they had refused to undergo the operation. At that time, the local hospital was poorly equipped for such a large number of operations both in human and material terms – it did not have enough beds or painkillers to treat all the women who underwent the operation. One woman told me that she had been rushed to the county hospital in the middle of the operation because of massive bleeding. “I felt I was dying right there on the table. But I kept thinking of my three children and that helped a lot,” she recalled. After the operations, the women were transported back to Xiajia village in small groups by tractor-drawn wagon. As the wagon bumped roughly along the unpaved country roads, many women could no longer control themselves and cried out loud.
Villagers believe that when a woman undergoes sterilization, her qi, that is, the essence of her body, flows out. She simultaneously loses both her reproductive abilities and her physical strength. In fact, many women who underwent the operation complained that for a time after the sterilization they felt weak and easily became ill. In addition, both men and women regard female sterilization as akin to male castration. They use the word qiao to refer to female sterilization, which usually is only used for gelding and spaying animals, especially pigs. Although the medical term for both male and female sterilization is jue yu, ordinary villagers do not refer to it in this way.
It should be pointed out that sterilization is performed...
The fact that villagers insist on using the term qiao indicates that female sterilization produces a great deal of anxiety and discontent.
To compensate the women who had lost part of their bodily essence (qi) and to ease the anxiety and despair among both the women and the men in the community, a gift-giving ritual was created by women and it was supported by men. As on other ritualized gift-giving occasions [Yan 1996: 52-67], relatives and friends would visit the woman who had undergone a sterilization, bringing eggs, brown sugar, canned fruits, preserved meat, and other kinds of food considered by the villagers to be nutritious. According to my informants, large-scale gift-giving began when one woman fell seriously ill after being sterilized; thereafter all women who were sterilized began to receive gifts. Hence a new ritual of gift exchange was created.
As in other rural areas, the local government and cadres in Xiajia village relied on the imposition of fines to force the villagers to comply with the birth control regulations; the amount of these fines were constantly increased. To a certain extent, the heavy fines did have a special effect. When asked why they did not continue to try to have a son, a number of villagers who had had multiple unplanned births gave me the same simple answer: ‘fa pa le,’ meaning they were afraid of the repeated fines. Table 1 opposite summarizes the amounts of the fines imposed during the 1980s and 1990s.
Table 1 - Changing fines for unplanned births, 1980-1999 (unit : yuan)
Not only was the amount of the fines frequently increased, their imposition had become more and more arbitrary by the late 1990s, as a wide range of fines was created for each category of unplanned births. Xiajia villagers complained to me that in practice the local government always imposed the heaviest fines possible, because the government benefited economically from them. In cases where a family owed too many unpaid fines, the village office had the power to confiscate the family’s contracted land as a further punishment. The fines taken from the villagers had to be shared between the village office and the local township government. The village office could keep 40 to 60 percent of the fines, to use as rewards paid to one-child households. The rest of the collected fines went to the birth planning committee in the local government to be used as part of its operating budget. For obvious reasons, therefore, both the local government and the village office were keen to impose and collect the fines.
A large-scale campaign of female sterilization was launched every two or three years after 1983, but it never was as coercive or massive as the first. The last campaign took place in 1994 when twelve Xiajia women were mobilized to undergo sterilization. Since then state birth control policies have been relaxed. Women with a son no longer have to undergo sterilization; instead they are allowed to use an IUD or to take pills. In addition, as for 1987, those couples whose first child was a girl were also allowed to have a second child, providing that the wife was 28 years old or older and the interval between her first and second birth was four years or more. These policy changes eased the worries of villagers who wished to have at least one male heir. More importantly, new fertility ideals were created among the younger generation in the 1990s.
For a recent overview of changes in family planning...
Table 2 below summarizes the demographic changes during the 1980s and 1990s.
Table 2 - Distribution of births by parity, 1979-1998
The obvious and most important change is the dramatic drop in higher-order births. As shown in Table 2, there were a total of 383 births from 1979 to 1998 (not including stillbirths); among them, 221 were first births, 102 were second births, 37 were third births, and 23 were fourth or subsequent births.
These numbers are drawn from the official records of...
A clear line can be drawn in 1992 when the last third and the last fourth births occurred. Actually, fourth (or subsequent) births were rare as early as 1984, with only two cases during the fifteen years that followed. Similarly, the number of third births was also reduced to one or two per year after 1984.
As a result of the reduction and eventual elimination of higher-order births, the total number of births per year dropped from 34 in 1979 to 11 in 1998, and the percentage of first births among all births increased from 32 percent in 1979 to 91 percent in 1998. This means that, by the end of 1990s, not only had the fertility rate decreased significantly, but birth parity had shifted to a predominantly first-birth pattern. It should also be noted that in the 1990s there was only one unplanned second birth; all other cases of second birth conformed to the revised policy that allowed couples whose first child was a girl to have a second child. Consequently, the percentage of second births also dropped dramatically from 29 percent in 1979 to 9 percent in 1998.
A decline in the fertility rate has been a national...
The sex ratio (the ratio of males to females) is another interesting point reflected in Table 2. Although the sex ratio of newborns fluctuated from year to year during the 1980s and 1990s, overall, there were 192 boys and 191 girls born during this twenty-year period. This constitutes a surprisingly low sex ratio of 100.5:100. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that the low sex ratio was derived from the first decade of birth control during which there were 115 newborn boys and 126 newborn girls, creating an extremely low sex ratio of 91:100. Taking the element of birth parity into consideration, it then becomes clear that if we look at the higher birth order, we can find more girls, which is a direct result of the efforts of those parents who tried several times to have male offspring. This trend took a remarkable turn in 1990 when newborn boys exceeded newborn girls by almost two times, and this continued in most years during the decade. As a result, the sex ratio increased to an alarming 118:100 during the second ten-year period, echoing the national pattern that resulted from a strong male preference among Chinese parents in both the cities and the countryside.
According to Tyrene White’s recent review, the sex...
Paralleling the rise of the sex ratio, the number of unplanned births declined significantly. This suggests that some villagers might have taken a more positive strategy to secure a male offspring, a rather common nationwide phenomenon in the 1990s.
There were rumors that several couples had taken advantage...
Xiajia villagers are clearly aware of these demographic changes and they attribute the radical drop in the number of births to the new mentality of the younger generation (more on this below) as well as to the continued state birth control campaigns. Ms. Wang, who was the birth control cadre in Xiajia since the late 1970s, told me that her job became much easier in the 1990s, as many young couples preferred to have fewer children and parents had also given up the old ideal of duozi duofu (more sons more happiness). Consequently, Xiajia village maintained an excellent record of birth planning for six successive years after 1993, with only one case of unplanned birth. According to the official birth quotas that were set in late 1998, Xiajia village was allowed to have eleven first-births and two second-births in 1999. These quotas, Ms. Wang told me, were more than enough for Xiajia; on the basis of past records and her own information, she predicted that one or two birth permits would remain unused.
Simple evidence of this new trend, Ms. Wang said, were her difficulties in issuing second-birth permits to the qualified couples. In the late 1980s, the application fee for such a permit was only 20 yuan. A number of young couples applied for the permit, but not all of them had a second child. In 1992, the local government decided to add a registration fee of 500 yuan, making the permit much more expensive. The purpose of this policy change was, according to the villagers, solely to increase the revenue of the local government, particularly that of the birth planning committee. This proved to be a bad strategy, at least in the Xiajia case. Ms. Wang told me that only ten couples applied for the permit between 1992 and 1997, nine of which actually had a second child. “Unless a couple has made a definite decision, they don’t want to spend the 520 yuan for a piece of paper. Who knows when state policies will change again,” she explained, as she showed me several blank permits for a second birth. Not long ago, these permits had been regarded as scare resources.
According to Peng and Dai, many people in the villages...
Ironically, by the end of the 1990s, cadres in local birth planning agencies had begun to worry about the radical changes that they had contributed to bring about. As fewer and fewer villagers violated the state policies, the cadres were not able to collect much revenue from fines and the sale of second-birth permits. Consequently, they faced a serious shortage of revenue. As a schoolteacher humorously noted, Xiajia village’s perfect score in birth planning can be regarded as bad news for many cadres in the local government.
Individual choices and reproductive strategies
After carefully examining the interactions among the central state, the local state (represented by the village cadres), and the ordinary villagers, Susan Greenhalgh suggests that the family planning program in rural Shaanxi has been ‘peasantized’ in the sense that both the state and the villagers have retreated from their original positions. The state was forced by strong peasant resistance to change its original radical policies and it gradually relaxed the single-child policy, allowing some villagers to have a second child if their first child was a girl. This actually reinforces the traditional male preference in human reproduction. On the other hand, villagers have begun to change their perceptions about the ideal number of children they should have and they have reached a new conclusion that the ideal is one son and one daughter – the ‘optimal two’ coined by Greenhalgh .
What I find most inspiring from Greenhalgh’s study is that nothing was immutable in the two decades of birth planning in rural China, and the results were derived from the dynamic contestations and negotiations among the parties involved. In light of Greenhalgh’s findings, I went further in my own research and tried to understand, at the individual level, who makes what kind of choice and why, taking into consideration the interactive relationships among the state, the local cadres, and ordinary villagers. Some clues about individual strategies can be gleaned from Table 3 below.
Table 3 - Villagers’ childbearing status defined by last birth, April 1980-July 1999 *
* As my latest field research was conducted in July-August 1999, birth data for 1999 is incomplete. Four first births and one planned second birth were expected when I left the village.
The data presented in Table 3 are different from those in Table 2 in several respects. First, the numbers represent the couples, instead of actual births, whose status in childbearing is defined by the last birth of their child(ren). A couple with three children is still counted as one couple in the category of “unplanned third or subsequent births.” Second, as mentioned above, enforcement of the birth control policies in Xiajia began on April 1, 1980. Prior to that, villagers did not have to make any choices about childbearing. So, couples who had children before 1980 are not included here, but the five couples who had their first child in early 1999 are. Third, in grouping the individual cases, I distinguish a first period ending in 1986 because after 1987 some couples qualified for a second child due to aforementioned policy changes. Another divide occurs in 1992 when the birth planning program in Xiajia took another turn, as shown by the near disappearance of unplanned births thereafter.
Facing increased pressure from the birth control policies, villagers had to make a fundamental choice between complying with or defying the policies, that is between planned and unplanned births. Customarily, local birth planning cadres classify households into two large categories: jishenghu (planned birth households) and chaoshenghu (extra-planned birth households). The former are represented in the first three columns of Table 3 – there are 162 couples who observed the birth control regulations and had either an only son, an only daughter, or two children with a planned second birth after 1987. The other four columns contain 89 couples, or, extra-planned birth households, who defied the state policies by having more children, including both unplanned second births and higher-order births. Now let us take a closer look at both groups.
Planned birth households
The 59 couples in the first column of Table 3 constitute the most interesting group because many of them were qualified to have a second child, but by the summer of 1999 they were still parents of an only daughter. Their unconventional choice challenges the widely accepted assumption that Chinese peasants universally prefer male offspring [Li op. cit.], thus drawing my immediate attention.
After conducting a focused survey of this group, I realized that I had to exclude the 32 couples who had their first child in or after 1993, because they were either qualified for a second child for only a short period of time or were too young to be qualified. In either case, it is hard to tell whether or not they intended to have a second child. In addition, of the 27 couples whose only daughter was born before 1993, 8 were unable to have a second child due to either health-related problems or the death of spouse. This narrowed my investigation down to the remaining nineteen couples.
The official birth control records show that among the wives of the nineteen families, seventeen had IUDs and the other two had been taking contraceptive pills since giving birth to their first child. This is a clear sign that, up to the summer of 1999, these women had made an effort not to have a second child. Some of the women had had their first child in the late 1980s, and their only daughters were already in primary school. Had they decided to have a second child, the interval between children would have been nearly ten years. According to Ms. Wang, these couples were content with an only daughter, and all except one had expressed the intention of not having a second child. They were officially recognized as dunuhu (only- daughter households), while the other twenty-one similarly qualified couples who had given birth to a second child during this period were still referred to as “planned birth households” (see the third column of Table 3).
The new phenomenon of an “only-daughter household”...
Through interviews and household visits I found that these parents of only daughters share several things in common. They were born either in the late 1960s or the early 1970s (with one exception), and they all had established their conjugal households shortly after their weddings [Yan 1999]. Economically, they formed a rather homogenous group slightly above the village average – having a new house, major electronic appliances, and some savings (see Yan 1992 for economic stratification in the village). However, in terms of their consumption of food, clothing, and leisure goods, such as music tapes and DVDs, these couples led much better material lives than most, even qualifying as rich in some respects.
Moreover, many husbands in this group are landless laborers, because they were too young to be given a share of contract land during decollectivization in 1983. Actually, only two men had a full share of contract land, seven had received a half-share (because they were either 16 or 17 in 1983), and the remaining ten had not received any contract land. Seeking temporary work in cities, therefore, is the main channel of income for these young men, and, with one exception, they regularly spend six months or so per year working on various jobs in urban areas. Their experiences of working and living in cities have no doubt had impact on their mentality and behavior, transforming many of them into the most open-minded individuals in Xiajia.
When asked about the unconventional idea of having an only daughter, the most common answer from these parents of only daughters was “yatou xiaozi buzhongyao, guanjian shi xiaoshu,” meaning “it is unimportant whether the child is a son or daughter, the key is to have a filial child.” The wives seemed to be more open-minded and vocal during my interviews, and on several occasions they provided detailed stories about sons who had failed to support their aged parents. Among the six husbands whom I talked to, four admitted that they would probably have wanted to have a son had their wives agreed to having a second child; but it was also fine with them to have an only daughter because many daughters were indeed better caretakers of their aged parents. Five men and eight women in this group also identified quality of life as their primary concern in deciding not to have a second child, and their excuses were either yangbuqi (cannot afford) or zhaogu bu guolai (cannot take care of [so many children]).
When I discussed my findings with Ms. Wang, about he birth control cadre in the village, she told me that these new ideas regarding childbearing actually emerged in the 1980s, and the first couple who decided to have an only son had made their decision in 1981. But, in the 1980s, most villagers were just playing with words, and it was only the late 1990s that more and more young couples became serious about having only one child. Ms. Wang then called my attention to another group – the 82 couples with an only son (see the second column of Table 3), and said: “I am not sure the parents of an only daughter won’t change their minds because they still have the time to do so. But, I can assure you these only-son families will stay the same, unless the government policies change again.” Her confidence was due to the almost perfect record of the birth control program in Xiajia village, which was also a reflection of Ms. Wang’s career achievement.
I found Ms. Wang’s statement convincing because most parents of an only son were in their early thirties or late twenties, and shared the same social background and economic status as the nineteen parents of an only daughter. Given the fact that some open-minded young couples have found an only-girl household to be an acceptable solution, it is very likely that most of these eighty couples will continue to comply with state policies – although some may have chosen to do so by default.
Extra-planned birth households
Now let us return to Table 3 and take a closer look at those individuals who, for various reasons, decided to violate the birth control regulations. By 1999, 56 couples had an unplanned second child and 33 couples had three or more children. Did they all want to have a son, thus ending up with more children than they were allowed to have? Some did, but others did not.
Among the 56 couples who were fined for having a second child, 32 did not have a son before the second attempt, while 24 already had a son. This means that only some of these couples made the decision to violate the state policies in order to have a son, while others were hoping to have a daughter, or simply wanted to have a second child. Male preference, therefore, is not the sole motivation for villagers to have a second child.
How many couples really achieved their sex preference goal when they risked having a second child? Table 3 shows that of the 32 couples whose first child was a daughter, 15 had a second girl, and 17 a boy. Similarly, among the 24 couples who already had a son but decided to have a second child, 13 had a daughter second child, and 11 had sons. If gender was their priority when they tried to have a second child, their chances of success were about fifty-fifty.
But, some individuals did not really care about the sex of their second child; instead, they just wanted to have another child. Several villagers explained to me that they felt it was unfair for the first child to grow up alone. “Everybody needs to have siblings and relatives,” claimed one middle-aged mother. This is particularly characteristic of couples whose first child was a son. In other words, contrary to conventional scholarly wisdom, gender may not necessarily be the only reason for an unplanned second birth.
Male preference, nevertheless, seems to be the major motivation among those who had three or more children. The majority of the higher-order birth couples (26 out of 33) did not have a son when they had their third or fourth child, as Table 3 shows. Actually, by 1992, the last year during which a higher-order birth occurred, only 14 of the 26 couples had had a son, while the other 12 couples ended up having three, four, or even five girls. Again, this indicates that when couples tried to have a son on their second or third attempt, the success rate was about 50 percent. This may also explain why, in the 1980s, the sex ratio of newborns was unusually low, as many of the higher-order newborns were girls. As these couples had a much stronger male preference in the first place, an unsuccessful second attempt led them to third or fourth attempts; hence the concentration of higher-order births in this small group. Actually, of these 33 couples, 18 of them had three children, 9 had four children, 4 had five children, and 2 had six children. So, by 1992, these 33 couples had produced 122 children, which translates into a fertility rate of 3.69 per woman in this small group, much higher than the average of 1.8 births per woman among the cohort of reproductive age from 1980 to 1999 in Xiajia village.
Seven couples had already had a son by the time they had their third child (see the last column of Table 3), but six of them had the high-order birth in either 1980 or 1981 when birth control policies were not strict. For these six couples, the direct cost of having a third child was tolerable because the collectives subsidized a major part of the 700 yuan fine. After the 1983 birth control campaign, however, fewer villagers challenged the state policies to have a third or fourth child unless they were driven by a strong desire to have a son.
The only exception is the couple who had their fourth child in 1989. It may not be accidental that in this particular case, the husband was known for being an extremely conservative and patriarchal tyrant at home, and economically the household was well below average in the late 1980s. Their repeated violation of birth control policy put the couple further in debt as they could not afford to pay the rising fines for higher order births – they were fined 6,000 yuan for their third child and 9,000 yuan for the fourth.
Low economic status is perhaps the most salient feature of this group. According to my household survey, 24 out of the 33 couples in the multiple-birth group fall into the category of the poor, while the other 9 barely reach the average level. Worse than that, 28 couples owed unpaid fines to the village office and many were also in debt to relatives. Although most husbands in this group were old enough to have received contracted land in 1983, their farms had long ago been confiscated by the village office due to their accumulated unpaid fines. The everyday struggle of raising several children dragged these couples further down. Their impoverished multiple-birth situation was vividly described by fellow villagers as “yue qiong yue sheng, yue sheng yue qiong,” which means “the more poor, the more children, the more children, the more poor” – obviously a vicious circle. Consequently, many couples in this group were looked down upon by other villagers and thus they suffered from a lack of self-esteem as well as social prejudice against them. This made them extremely defensive about their reproductive strategies. For instance, a few couples in this group regretted their choices or were interested in rethinking their reproductive strategies, but the majority of them still insisted on the ideal of “more sons, more happiness.” Their insistence on traditional notions may also be explained by their age; they were generally in their early forties or older in 1999 and thus had spent their youth during the collectivist period (I will return to this below).