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 birthrates 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 over 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. 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.
In the midst of the Cold War, China's rocket scientists came up with an ambitious plan that had nothing to do with missiles, or space exploration, or weaponry of any kind.
It concerned babies.
On September 25, 1980, China's Communist Party unveiled this plan through an open letter that asked members to voluntarily limit their family size to one child. The request was, in truth, an order.
Thus began the one-child policy, the world's most radical social experiment, which continues to irrevocably shape how one in six people in this world are born, live, and die.
Like crash dieting, the one-child policy was begun for reasons that had merit. China's leadership argued the policy was a necessary step in its Herculean efforts to lift a population the size of the United States' from abject poverty. But like crash dieting, the one-child policy employed radical means and aimed for quick results, causing a rash of negative side effects.
The excesses of the one-child ...
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