Between 1979 and 2015, the Chinese government imposed a strict one-child policy in the country in a bid to control population growth. One would assume that this was limited to pregnancies. But the harsh and unnatural rule extended to babies already born who ended up being massacred.
According to the policy, citizens could only have a single child. Those who violated the law were made to pay steep fines. In some instances, their property would be seized. Filmmaker Nanfu Wang, who was born in 1958 and grew up in rural China, presents the horrifying reality of the policy through her documentary One Child Nation. She remembers how the government spread its propaganda constantly that having just a single child eventually became a “regular” thing.
“At some point, it just became a normal part of life, just like the air, the water, the tree… And you just stop paying attention, stop questioning, because it has always been there,” she said to NPR. People who had more than one child were often depicted as backward or criminal. However, these were just the “tolerable” side of what the government was doing to “control population.”
Local Family Planning officials were granted power to abduct young women, restrain, and forcefully sterilize them to avoid any pregnancy. In case they were pregnant, abortions were forcefully carried out without their consent even if the women were eight to nine months into their pregnancy. The government went further and apparently sanctioned procedures in which infants that were just born were also killed off. The fetuses were often wrapped in yellow medical waste bags and put in trash dumps.
The one-child policy ended up creating a market for trafficked orphans. “Overseas adoption quickly became a despicable trafficking racket in which Family Planning officials tore second children away from their homes and gave them to orphanages (for a fee), which then sold them to American and European families who ostensibly had no clue that they were perpetuating a kidnapping-for-profit paradigm,” according to The Daily Beast.
One Child Nation is produced by Amazon Originals. The documentary is being released in limited theaters and is expected to be available to Amazon Prime users worldwide later on.
A 2013 report published by the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study found that children provided mental and financial support to their elderly parents in a big way. “The children living very close provide more time than those living farther away… The ones living further away give more money,” John Strauss, professor of economics at the University of Southern California and one of the investigators of the study, had said to the South China Morning Post.
The elderly parents were found to have received almost 1,700 Yuan from their children during the period of study, which was enough to cover almost 37 percent of living costs. But with the one-child policy effectively reducing the number of children, the elderly will receive much less financial support in the future. With poverty rates among the elderly being higher than the middle-aged population, the state will have to spend more of its public funds to take care of them.
The gender ratio in China has skewed toward males due to the one-child policy, since traditional culture often encouraged the birth of sons over daughters. As of 2016, there were 33 million excess men in the country. The fertility rate in China has declined post-1980. Even though the government allowed couples to have two children from 2016, the country will inevitably experience the negative effects of the one-child policy for a few decades.