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.
about the one-child policy and what might have been. Born in 1980, Yao belonged to the first generation affected by the policy. He was the eleven-pound child of towering basketball players. Spotting his potential early on, sports officials fruitlessly lobbied for Yao’s parents to be given an exemption to the policy. They’d wanted more Yao champions. Increasingly sports recruiters complain that Chinese parents are reluctant to subject their precious one-and-only to this system, where young
unimpeded. With success in examinations, a well-established form of social mobility, the gaokao became a be-all and end-all examination for every Chinese school-going person, starting in their early teens. When I lived in China, I always knew when gaokao season arrived. Colleagues would take a couple of weeks, sometimes even a month, off work in order to help their kids through this crucial time. Traffic would be lighter. Heavy construction around test areas halted. Beijing’s smoggy skies would
with siblings, but they faced even fiercer competition with their peers. While suicide rates in China among the young and college-going lag behind those of Japan, the United States, and Russia, test-taking pressure does take its toll. A 2014 Chinese government report looking at seventy-nine cases of suicide among students concluded that over 90 percent were caused by the pressures of China’s test-oriented educational system. Sixty-three percent of the suicides occurred between February and July,
take care not to conceive too soon, as Sheep babies are seen as too passive, too unlikely to succeed in life. This whole clash of modern and traditional has proved too much for Tian. He’d rather retreat into his room and play computer games. There’s another name his relatives freely call him: zhai nan, or geek. Literally “residence male,” the term is derived from the Japanese otaku, “house male.” A few months before we met, Tian went on his one and only date, a fix-up arranged by his uncle. All
165, 208 Danshen Julebu (Singles Club), 124 dating, 102, 120, 121–22, 124. See also matchmaking death/afterlife, xvi, 161–64 demography, study of, 46 demystification of parenthood, 155 den Boer, Andrea, 114, 115 Deng (husband of Feng Jianmei), 61 Deng Xiaoping, 3, 48, 141 Deutsche Bank, 7 dialou, 134 diaosi, 96 Diaosi Man (online comedy show), 96 D.I.C.E. Awards, 99 Ding Wanlong, 18 Ding Xuan, 127–28 DiYi Consulting, 199, 203–4 DNA testing, 183–84, 186, 189 Document 7, 71