One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment
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When Communist Party leaders adopted the one-child policy in 1980, they hoped curbing birth-rates would help lift China’s poorest and increase the country’s global stature. But at what cost? Now, as China closes the book on the policy after more than three decades, it faces a population grown too old and too male, with a vastly diminished supply of young workers.
Mei Fong has spent years documenting the policy’s repercussions on every sector of Chinese society. In One Child, she explores its true human impact, traveling across China to meet the people who live with its consequences. Their stories reveal a dystopian reality: unauthorized second children ignored by the state, only-children supporting aging parents and grandparents on their own, villages teeming with ineligible bachelors, and an ungoverned adoption market stretching across the globe. Fong tackles questions that have major implications for China’s future: whether its “Little Emperor” cohort will make for an entitled or risk-averse generation; how China will manage to support itself when one in every four people is over sixty-five years old; and above all, how much the one-child policy may end up hindering China’s growth.
Weaving in Fong’s reflections on striving to become a mother herself, One Child offers a nuanced and candid report from the extremes of family planning.
got our revenge on them, using their lives to repay the blood debts they owe us from history. . . . We have tamed the rivers and controlled lightning . . . roam in outer space, land on the Moon, and send messengers to Venus, Mars and other planets. . . . In short, we have been the victors, we have mastered the world, we have conquered outer space and we have won freedom. The rocketmen calculated that China’s optimal population a century hence would be about 700 million people, but they
unidentified deity that could represent almost any religion. It is flanked on each side by a lugubrious couplet: Where is the moon and the spring breeze? I don’t know. The peach blossom falls in the river and is gone. I peer in and see a body in white. Staffers tell me the deceased is Muslim and is being wrapped in a ceremonial white shroud. On other occasions, Mount Penglai might be used for Taoist rituals, or Buddhist prayers. There is no real reason for this room to exist. The
of patients. “I had a patient with rectal cancer,” Ma told me once. “He himself was aware there was blood in his bowel movements. The daughter wouldn’t let us tell him he had cancer. She would rather her father remain unaware, and she told us to tell her father it was simply hemorrhoids. “Months passed, but the patient did not feel he was getting better. He still found blood in his stool. He was not happy with me. He thought he wasn’t getting proper treatment and refused to cooperate anymore.”
family-planning officials used this as a pretext to seize the child, who was sold into adoption. This man has now spent the last five years in search of the child, whom he believes is living in an Illinois suburb. Such were the costs of the one-child policy. IV I was on a flight returning from Kunming, the nearest major Chinese city bordering Myanmar. A sour taste of failure was in my mouth, for I’d failed to get a visa into the country. Myanmar was in a news blackout after a cyclone,
tofu schools, 20 Tong, Scott, 172 Tonight’s the Night (television show), 106 Too Many People in China? (Liang, James), 60 transgender person, 106–7, 228n Tsinghua University, 37, 62, 97 24 Paragons of Filial Piety, 86–87 twins. See multiple births two children, xii, 11, 24 one-child policy reform and, 60–61 in rural areas, 44, 71, 196 secret two-child zones experiment, 44–45, 58, 59, 73 status in Yicheng, 66–67 sterilization after, 67 See also dandu policy “Two’s Too