We in “the west” had all heard about the One Child Policy of China which was introduced in 1979, and continued on until 2015/6. The reality is that the rest of the world felt it was a good decision as the population of China was growing at an alarming rate. The growth could not be sustained. Still, it was a bit of a mystery to those outside the country as to how it was being managed. Mei Fong’s book “One Child” tells much of the story of how it was implemented. The sad reality of the policy. The lives ruined because of it. And she details the future implications of the policy on the country. I purchased “One Child” for my Kindle, and have just finished reading this most interesting tome.
When I went to China to teach in 2008, I knew little of the policy and its workings. But there were several events that came to my attention that was to intrigue me.
One Child Policy
It was part of our contracts as teachers not to talk about a range of issues, including politics, religion, governments and other issues. We were to learn that the Chinese said little about these topics either. The One Child Policy was not spoken about.
Each class started with asking students to introduce themselves with a small speech about their family. We were always surprised to learn that most students had siblings. We were to learn too, that our students mostly came from rather wealthy families – for they had high fees to pay for their study.
My Father Hates Me
In my first semester, one of my students was in tears and asked to speak with me. We made arrangements to meet after class. She told me she was an only child, and her father wanted her killed at birth and later when she was sick. Her mother had to fight to keep her alive and well.
Her father “never” spoke to her, she said. He “hated” her because she was not the wanted son. She asked me for advice. It was a very emotional discussion, and all I could do was explain his deep cultural needs. My advice was just to be the best daughter she could be. I saw her several years later, in fact attended her wedding in China. Her father had eventually accepted the reality of life and showed great love and affection for her by then.
Seldom did I ask many questions about the students and their families. I learned that many had siblings. Public servants could definitely not have more than one child. They would lose their jobs and income. I learned that the wealthy could either bribe the official or pay the huge fine and keep the extra baby. Something that the poorer country folk could not do.
Play in Australia
There is a play about the topic of the One Child Policy. I hope to see it one day.