BEIJING -- They are China's pampered darlings.

Eight years after the world's most populous nation put its controversial family planning program into effect, limiting most couples to one child, one of the most conspicuous results has been the rise of a generation of "little emperors," who in the West would be known as spoiled brats.

The official press is full of stories about such children. Last year, the newspaper China Youth News published a 12-part series entitled "The Little Suns in Our Lives" that painted some disturbing portraits.

The parents of one third-grade boy, for example, bought him whatever he wanted. He dined on meat pies; his parents ate porridge. He spurned clothing that had been worn once. After his grandfather spanked him for starting a fight in school, the youngster took a pair of scissors and threatened to kill himself until the grandfather apologized and bought him a new toy.

A 7-year-old girl was asked by her parents to empty the chamber pot, but only emptied half because she said she was not the only one who had used it.

"What will be the outcome if parents allow this willfulness to continue?" the newspaper asked.

China has 337 million children under age 14. Of those, about 9 percent, or 30.5 million, are children without siblings, most of them concentrated at the younger grades, family planning officials said. Eight of every 10 first-graders come from single-child families. With the recent renewed emphasis on the one-couple, one-child policy, that ratio is likely to increase to 90 percent over the next five years, according to Liu Bin, vice minister of the State Education Commission.

Many only children are so doted upon by their families that they become timid, overbearing, lazy, self-indulgent or contemptuous of physical labor, officials said. Most only children have "weak points, such as {the} low ability to care for themselves, selfishness, willfulness and arrogance," Liu said.

"The only-children issue has caused social problems," said Zhou Huayin, a Beijing education official. Spoiled by their parents, these children often become "hot-tempered and pay little respect to parents and older generations," he said.

Newspapers constantly warn adults against indulging in the "4-2-1 syndrome," in which four grandparents and two parents pamper an only child.

Doctors also worry that too many of these children are not just brats, but fat brats. There is a growing number of overweight youngsters, most of whom come from single-child families, according to Yan Chun, director of the department of internal medicine of Beijing's Children's Hospital, who was quoted last year by the official New China News Agency. The children's obesity stemmed from lack of exercise and overeating, as their parents, operating under the traditional Chinese belief that fatter is better, stuffed them with chocolate and sugar, he said.

Invariably outfitted in bright colors and the latest fashions, children fill Beijing's parks and department stores, often with parents or grandparents in tow. Girls wear fancy ribbons and hair decorations; boys often sport smart sailor or soldier suits.

One father, a taxi driver, said he had no choice but to spoil his only son. His wife worked as a store clerk, so care of their 2-year-old boy was left to the child's paternal grandparents. "I don't see him very often, and he takes advantage of me," admitted the man, who declined to give his name.

He said his son insisted on two pony rides a day at Beijing's Ditan Park, near the family's apartment. "When it is so hot like this, he eats popsicles one after the other," he added. "It is making his stomach bad. But if we don't give them to him, he screams and rolls around on the floor, and it affects our neighbors. This is going to be a big problem."

In a country where the good of the collective is still paramount, at least in theory, the emerging social phenomenon of spoiled children is becoming an issue of increasing concern.

By 2000, most Chinese 20-year-olds will be from single-child families, the monthly Chinese Youth magazine noted in its June issue. "What kind of younger generation will this be?" it asked. "What will be the impact of these brotherless and sisterless people on China's development?"

In 20 years, the products of single-child families will be working, "and they will write a new chapter in Chinese history. Single-child parents are not just feeding and clothing their children or escorting them to and from kindergarten, they are making history," said another magazine, Chinese Writers.

Officials have made clear that the one-couple, one-child policy is vital to the country's economic policies and goal of limiting the population to 1.2 billion by 2000. Earlier this year, the State Statistical Bureau announced that China produced 1.6 million more babies last year than planned. China's population is estimated at 1.057 billion. With few exceptions, harsh penalties, such as fines, are imposed on those who violate state guidelines.

Earlier this month, family planning officials said China was toughening birth control policies in rural areas where peasants were defying the one-child rule. "There has been some slackening of efforts in family planning work in some places," said Liang Jimin, director of the State Family Planning Commission.

As part of their propaganda effort, officials are quick to point out the benefits of having only one child.

The only child has better physical development, wider interests, a quicker mind, a keener sense of competition and greater thirst for knowledge, education commission official Liu was quoted as saying in a New China News Agency dispatch this month. These youngsters also benefit from their parents' ability to afford the luxuries of extracurricular activities, such as sports and music lessons, he said.

To help parents raise their "little emperors" in the proper way, about 20,000 "parents' schools" have been established nationwide in recent years. The schools are actually classes sponsored by primary schools and kindergartens and feature lectures by experts.

"These parents just don't know the importance of family education for bringing up a well-educated, disciplined new generation, and that's why parents' schools are necessary," said Liu.

At the Restful Pavilion Primary School in Beijing's southwestern Xuanwu district, classes for parents are held about once a month in a small first-floor room that serves as the school's library. To encourage attendance, parents receive special dispensation from their work organizations to attend the classes, usually held during the day, principal Huang Quanxin said.

The classes were started three years ago after a survey of the school's children, many of them from one-child families, showed them to have unrealistically high expectations for their futures, Huang said. Many of the children said they wanted to be premier; few wanted to be ordinary workers, Huang said. Nearly half of the students said their parents hit them if they scored below 80 on tests, he said.

"We felt the need to give the parents some education," Huang said. Part of the problem, he said, lies in the parents' upbringing. Most of them grew up during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 and, as a result, "they feel that they missed good opportunities in life and want to make it up on their children," Huang said.

About 50 parents attended a recent class and heard Zhou Huayin, an official in the district's education bureau, lecture them on the dangers of spoiling their only children and the need to combine love with education. Some parents readily acknowledged that they spoiled their children, but one woman, echoing a comment frequently heard among parents, pointed an accusing finger at her in-laws.

"After the grandparents came and lived with us, we could feel the change in our daughter," said Zhang Lizhu, an office worker whose daughter is in the third grade. "Usually she does some household work, like sweeping the floor. But after the grandparents left, she doesn't do it any more, because her grandmother did not let her do it."

Chinese officials said they are confident that they will be able to resolve the spoiled-brat problem through propaganda and more focus on physical labor. In school, the children are assigned simple tasks, such as washing their handkerchiefs, as a way to learn to take care of themselves. Parents' schools urge mothers and fathers to encourage their children to help prepare dinner, sweep the floor and wash dishes, officials said.

"Encouraging them to work will help get rid of some of their arrogance," said Luo Yupu, vice chief of the Xuanwu district's education bureau.

But some parents say that no amount of education or propaganda is going to change the bottom line.

"I know I shouldn't give him any more soda," sighed one father, 37, a steel factory cadre, as he watched his 18-month-old son happily slurp his fifth cup of orange pop. "What do you want me to do? I only have one child."