One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment

One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment

Mei Fong

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 054427539X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


An intimate investigation of the world’s largest experiment in social engineering, revealing how its effects will shape China for decades to come, and what that means for the rest of the world

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.

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let us take a holiday in peace,” said one father, bitterly. Another said, “My child is dead. Heaven agrees I have a right to scream and shout, but this government, it thinks it is bigger than heaven!” The count ran down. Thirty days. Twenty-one days. Online rumors began floating about the Beijing Olympic mascots—Teletubby-like creatures—hinting they represented coming disasters for China. Jingjing, the panda, stood for the Sichuan earthquake. Huanhuan, the flame, and Yingying, the Tibetan

to get back on its feet after disastrous policies like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. New leaders like Hua Guofeng, Hu Yaobang, and Deng Xiaoping needed to shore up their legitimacy and steer the demoralized population onward and upward. They staked their legitimacy on providing economic revitalization, and the decade-long wanxishao was felt to be too slow for turbocharged growth. The logic of curbing births was fairly simple: to grow its per-capita GDP quickly, China would

themselves: Paul S. F. Yip and Ka Y. Liu, “The Ecological Fallacy and the Gender Ratio of Suicide in China,” British Journal of Psychiatry 189, no. 5 (October 2006), http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/189/5/465. [>] “I wish I had daughters”: Mei Fong, “It’s Cold Cash, Not Cold Feet, Motivating Runaway Brides in China,” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2009. [>] One in four men was unable to marry at all: Valerie Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer, Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus

They were pulling more dead bodies from the rubble than live ones. Twenty-four hours into the journey, Liu and Tang heard that 183 bodies had been pulled from Huimei’s school. “She’s dead,” sobbed Tang. “You can’t say that yet,” insisted Liu. “You can’t say that yet.” His eyes glared. The uncertainty left hope alive. One man sat nearby with an ashen face. He had just gotten a call telling him that his child was dead. Somewhere between then and Xian the water ran out in the toilets. The rank

extreme economic rationalism”: Susan Greenhalgh, “Fertility as Mobility: Sinic Transitions,” Population and Development Review 14, no. 4 (December 1988): 629–74, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1973627. Index A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z A AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 141 abortion advice/persuasion on, 68, 69 as birth control, 25 Chen Guangcheng on, 81 forced, x, xv, 60, 61, 62, 70,

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