This past week, a Chinese father was reamed by the internet for a video he posted of his three-year-old son being forced to exercise half-naked on the snowy streets of New York City last month. Nanjing businessman He Liesheng vigorously defended himself in a long interview with The Daily Mail today, drawing a bizarre parallel with the U.S. troops sent to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year: "Those troops were specially trained—they were the elite. In the same way, I believe the way I am raising my son will make him special and better than everyone else."
Liesheng is proud of the "Eagle Father" moniker the internet has bestowed on him: "Like an eagle, I push my child to the limit so he can learn how to fly." He's come up with an incredibly intense child-rearing regime for his son—who just turned four yesterday—who he has nicknamed Duo Duo ("more more"). He obsessively micro-manages his life with meticulously detailed weekly schedules that cover every minute of his day, from the moment he wakes at 6 a.m. to bedtime at 8.30 p.m. He said he chose this approach after his son was born two months premature, weighing just 4lb. "The doctors told me that he might have suffered some brain damage and might have developmental difficulties. They told that me he would be a bit backward and not like other children," he said.
He was shocked by the outcry his video caused: "I didn’t realize people would react in the way that they did. In China, about 60 per cent of people disapprove of what I did, 20 per cent approve and 20 per cent of people don’t know what to think. But I don’t regret what I did and I would do it again—or maybe another similar kind of exercise to make him stronger." He says he had negotiated an agreement with his son before making him do it; he further explained why he made him do it:
First, I wanted to do something to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Second, I did it because China is developing very fast and I wanted to show that if a child can accept this kind of extreme education when they are young, they can overcome any difficulties the future might hold. And third, I did it because I want Duo Duo to be strong.
Liesheng says he doesn't "care about the negative reaction," and the Daily Mail thinks he actually revels in it, with his dining table and coffee table covered in laminated Chinese newspaper cuttings of the story. He now plans to write a book in his "Eagle Dad" persona to promote his approach to parenting, ala Amy Chua, who wrote a book about her "Tiger Mom" parenting method. But it does seem that the controversy has caused strain on his marriage; his wife stayed in New York since Duo Duo returned at the beginning of February for what Liesheng described vaguely as "personal business." He added, "His mother just wants him to be a normal boy but I want him to be exceptional."
As for Duo Duo, the Daily Mail's Chinese translator asked him what he remembered about his run in the snow: "I was very cold and I was unhappy...Don’t make me do it again."