Review: One Child

One ChildIn One Child, Mei Fong, a journalist, compiled a compelling investigation into the impact of the one child policy implemented in China had on the future of the country and the rest of the world. Unintended consequences never seem to be part of the thought process to many plans.

On September 25, 1980, a public letter—published by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to the their membership—called upon all to adhere to the one-child policy. China exercised control over the reproductive habits of over one billion people.

In 2008 when a huge earthquake hit China, the author went to cover the devastation as a journalist. While on a train to a village, she saw how the horrible ramifications of this policy swelled to the families that had one child when their one child was killed in the disaster. There were even “bachelor villages” whereby there were no women of “marriageable age.” The vast majority of female babies born in China over the thirty-six year period were adopted by Americans in addition to the high percentage of abortions and female babies placed in orphanages or totally abandoned.

This one child rule may be a major setback for China, as they now have fewer children that will take care of the aging parents and grandparents as well as having a diminished supply of workers for the world’s largest economy. The one child policy ended in 2016. But, now, psychologically, many Chinese couples have the mindset that a second child is viewed as selfish and bad parenting. The author states that the greatest damage of the one child policy is that it forced people to re-think what parenthood involves and what it means to live and love. A substantial percentage of people hold the concept that one child helps them concentrate on their resources and have a more successful child. The book shares stories of people that have had many emotional issues that surfaced, as well.
Chinese Nationals have been conditioned to think of reproduction as a tool for bettering society and spurring social mobility. It has caused a bit of an Aldous Huxley Brave New World feeling that a high percentage of couples have preferred genetic screening and want “designer babies.” Surrogate agencies flourished, as couples with infertility issues felt immense pressure to have the one perfect baby.

I highly recommend reading this book that conveys the insightful, historical impact of the one child policy in China and the turmoil it created. It is amazing that many couples in China even worry about their Horoscope, planning the conception of their baby at the right time, as Sheep babies are seen as too passive, too unlikely to succeed in life. If the predictions of India overtaking China in population numbers in the next decade come true, China will still have major issues to calm the aftermath of their one child policy implemented for 36 years.

One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment by Mei Fong. 9780544275393. 2016. Gr 9-adult.