Documentary

One Child Nation

The horrors of China's one-child policy

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New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who admires what a single-party autocracy such as China's can accomplish when it is "led by a reasonably enlightened group of people," praised that country's "one child" policy in a 2008 book, saying it "probably saved China from a population calamity."

In the Amazon Prime Video documentary One Child Nation, the Chinese-American filmmaker Nanfu Wang lays bare the brutal reality of the oppressive regime that was so glibly endorsed by rich Westerners who take their own reproductive freedom for granted. She shows that the one-child policy, in force from 1979 to 2015, routinely relied on extortion, assault, kidnapping, and infanticide.

Returning to the farming village in Jiangxi province where she was born and raised, Wang talks to an uncle and an aunt who mournfully remember the infant daughters they felt compelled to abandon. Wang's grandfather says he had to dissuade local officials from sterilizing her mother after Wang was born.

One of those village leaders tells Wang "the one-child policy was very difficult to implement" because "people resisted." If they couldn't be persuaded by propaganda, they would be punished by confiscation of their possessions or demolition of their homes. Recalcitrant women were physically forced to undergo sterilization. "It was really fucked up," the former official says. "We below didn't want to do this, but we had no choice."

A local midwife estimates that she performed 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions. "Many I induced alive and killed," she says. "My hand trembled doing it."

A former family planning official recalls that "sometimes pregnant women tried to run away" from forced abortions, often performed at eight or nine months, and "we had to chase after them." Unlike the midwife, she is proud of her work, agreeing with Thomas Friedman that "the policy was absolutely correct."

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  1. But Orange Man Bad.

    1. You know, it’s entirely possible for both the Chinese government to be vile and for Donald Trump to be a douche.

      1. 1. Douchiness
        1.2. Property rights
        2.3. NAP

        And really it’s more of a laundry list of things like trans rights and open borders with *some* property rights thrown in. It really has become a libertarian-lifestyle magazine.

    2. Normally the case, but he’s not even mentioned in this article.

      I wonder if the documentary gets into what social effects an entire generation composed of only children resulted in? I can’t imagine that “The Little Emperors” have handled failure well. Or being told, “No.” Historically, a country with a large surplus of single men, and limited prospects for starting a family, has not been fun to live next to either.

  2. You can not Godwin this article.

    1. Could Hitler have Godwinned it?

  3. The real horror of the One Child policy was described by George Orwell in 1984 – “Do it to Julia!”

    “We didn’t want to do it but we had no choice”, “My hand trembled doing it”. But you did have a choice and you did do it. How does a human being maintain his self-respect knowing that when they show up at your door with the rat cage you’ll betray every little bit of human decency to keep the rat cage off your face? The only way to do it is to lie to yourself, convince yourself that Big Brother is right and that you love Big Brother. I have to wonder how fast that “the policy was absolutely correct” midwife would change her tune if you threatened her with the rat cage.

    1. Its quite simple, most people arent even worth the bullet required to remove them from the equation. They lack principle, vision, and have the constitution of a jelly sandwich.

    2. Easy for us to say. We’re talking about a communist government. They abort adults too, you know.

  4. A former family planning official recalls that “sometimes pregnant women tried to run away” from forced abortions, often performed at eight or nine months, and “we had to chase after them.”

    Fucking Godless monsters.

    1. Our enlightened betters:

      New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who admires what a single-party autocracy such as China’s can accomplish when it is “led by a reasonably enlightened group of people,” praised that country’s “one child” policy in a 2008 book, saying it “probably saved China from a population calamity.”

    2. Praised by a NYT columnist; no less a fucking godless monster, made all the worse by their distant approbation.

      1. The Times supported Stalin, would you expect more from them here?

    3. “sometimes pregnant women tried to run away” from forced abortions, often performed at eight or nine months,”

      No shit. By 8 or 9 months they have felt their child kick, roll over, and hiccup for about 3 months. They feel rightly like someone is going to kill their child.

      1. Ralph Northam would get such a woody reading that.

  5. “Single party autocracy” + “led by a reasonably enlightened group of people,”

    Sounds a familiar these, does it not?

    1. The Maoists called them ‘Capitalist Roaders’ led by the much lauded reformer Deng Xiaoping.

      1. Yeah, but Joe Biden was the one who talked Deng Xiaoping into going along with the plan.

  6. Friedman’s stupidity both then and now is appalling, as the stupidity of supposedly educated people so often is. In addition to the horrors described, this insane policy has turned China into a ticking demographic time-bomb with dangerous implications for the rest of the world.

    1. ” In addition to the horrors described, this insane policy has turned China into a ticking demographic time-bomb with dangerous implications for the rest of the world.”

      The policy led to sex-selected abortions where couples who wanted a boy would abort until a baby boy was on the way. That is likely to lead to unwanted, perhaps dangerous consequences for society (if you’ll pardon the expression). Libertarians will defend these decisions, given their championing of individual freedom.

      1. You’re an idiot.

        1. But sex-selective abortions are the Libertarian position, despite the risks of a probable resulting sex imbalance. Whether or not I’m an idiot is immaterial, but if that’s the best you can do, I’m not surprised.

          1. There’s nothing libertarian about killing babies, you bloody ghoul.

            1. Libertarian support for abortion is well established.

              1. The Chinese one child policy is hardly the same thing as the libertarian support for abortion.

    2. It seems that, regardless of previous successes in life, becoming a New York Times columnist also requires becoming a hack.

    3. Per 2016 data, China’s under 20 cohort is a good 25% smaller than their 40-60 cohort, 20% smaller than their 20-40 cohort.

      The 40-60 cohort is about double the 60-80 now.

      A huge inversion on productive vs. working population is underway now.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_China#/media/File:Population_pyramid_of_China_2016.png

    4. So the Chinese government has guaranteed a high percentage of involuntary celibate males who will have the government to blame for their situation.

      1. [IMG: Chinese propaganda style poster with smiling parents looking upward, son looking forward, parents’ hands on the shoulders of a cutout for the missing daughter.]
        New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman admires the China single-party autocracy “led by a reasonably enlightened group of people” accomplished with its 1979-2015 “one child policy”.
        He must hate Chinese girls.

  7. And yet, we still somehow ended up with 1.5 billion Chinese.

    1. Is that before or after coronavirus?

    2. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  8. At least with Covid19, all those one-child families will only have one grandparent left to take care of in old age. So things work out in the end.

  9. If you ever find yourself agreeing with Thomas Friedman (or David Brooks for that matter), you really need to go back and re-examine your position just to make sure all your marbles are in place.

    1. I once received a Thomas Friedman book as a present on Christmas. I was polite and say thank you. Later I managed to make it all the way to chapter two before throwing it across the room.

      1. Creating “Switzerland on the Tigris” is how the idiot justified the US’s Iraq policy when I heard him speak about it in 2004.

        He really loved himself some autocracy, didn’t he?

      2. Giving political books as gifts is touchy business. I mean, maybe as a gag gift, sure, I might give someone a Naomi Wolf book…

  10. “probably saved China from a population calamity.”

    I welcome Friedman to go take a big huff of the air from any major Chinese city. Maybe spend a month breathing it. We can all remind him when he wheezes and coughs that nothing calamitous is taking place.

  11. The progressive’s paradise. Abortion is good, individual choice is bad, the state is all loving, what’s not to get behind?

  12. What would the result have been had they not implemented this policy? 3 billion Chinese in 2000 and 500 million dying of starvation over then next 10 years? Or a booming economy with 2.7 billion middle class Chinese citizens?

    Hard to have the discussion about who is an evil idiot without knowing the result of doing nothing.

    1. Hard to have the discussion about who is an evil idiot without knowing the result of doing nothing.

      So, conceivably, Hitler was in the right.

    2. They implemented the policy because they were under a communist economic paradigm. Had they not enacted a hard-line communist model, one-child never would have been necessary– and that’s if I accept that the one-child policy WAS necessary, which I don’t believe it was. But yeah, if you collectivize and ration everything and it causes widespread famine, and you refuse to stop rationing and collectivizing, then yeah, maybe you gotta implement one-child.

      1. “They implemented the policy because they were under a communist economic paradigm.”

        Deng was moving toward a capitalist model, which may explain the anti-natalist policy. When Mao was in power, pro-natalist policies saw the infant mortality rate plummet and the population of China doubled.

        I don’t know where you are getting the idea that the one-child policy was introduced in response to widespread famine or that the policy would be an appropriate response to famine.

        1. Allow me to retort.

          China’s one-child family: a famine-forced decision.

          The occurence of the famine was only recently brought to the attention of the rest of the world when demographers uncovered statistical evidence indicating that as many as 30 million Chinese may have perished in the 1958-62 famine. The famine was due both to faulty agricultural policies and to severe crop damage in 1959 and 1960. The family planning program initiated in 1960 was interrupted by the cultural revolution, and the effort to control population growth was not reinstituted until the early 1970s. By 1979 childbearing among the postwar baby boom generation boosted population growth rates to a new high, and the government began advocating a 1-child family. The national census of 1982 revealed that China’s population doubled between 1949-1982 and in 1982 exceeded 1 billion. Severe famine and economic chaos were forecasted for the near future if population growth was not severely and immediately curbed.

          1. “The family planning program initiated in 1960 was interrupted by the cultural revolution, and the effort to control population growth was not re-instituted until the early 1970s.”

            I think the above passage is where the problem lies.

            Mao’s hold on power was weakened after the failure of the ‘Great Leap Forward,’ and the rightist (Capitalist Roader) element of the party was gaining. In response, Mao (and the Gang of Four) promoted the Cultural Revolution, exploiting the militancy of China’s youngsters, to seize power back from the rightists, who, by the early 1970s, were gaining strength thanks to Mao’s physical deterioration, but didn’t make a proper comeback until Mao was dead.

    3. Wait, wait. So forced abortions and sterilizations are okay, because of hypotheses and what ifs?

      1. You can’t know that 12 million Jews, Germans, and Eurpoeans wouldn’t have been worse than Hitler. We should’ve known what the outcome of those lives was before deciding.

  13. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman

    I came here to make a crack about Thomas Friedman, but I see Sullum did it for me. Bravo.

  14. A local midwife estimates that she performed 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions.

    Stop it, you’re making NARAL jealous.

    1. I always imagine them bathed in blood, joyfully tossing piles of tiny little disassociated heads, arms and legs into the air.

      1. Lots of infants were simply abandoned in the streets. In Guangzhou’s nicer areas, I found the streets thronged with American couples hoping to adopt a child. I visited an orphanage in Kunming, Yunnan province during the height of this period. It was unforgettable. The director of the place had a nice new Mercedes parked outside, but the staff, mostly young girls, were compassionate and caring. But terribly understaffed considering that small children need round the clock care and attention. Many of the children were troubled physically or mentally and I was struck by the absence of crying. It seems they’d learned that crying wouldn’t get them anywhere. Another piteous child I saw had her nose gnawed off by the rats who discovered the baby in the streets and began to nibble at the point where the warm breathe came through the fabric that she was wrapped in.

        1. Thank you for sharing that mtrue.

          To have witnessed such things.

        2. Shitty orphanages don’t justify late-term abortion and infanticide. None of those things should be happening.

          1. “None of those things should be happening.”

            By your own admission, you always imagine much worse things happening.

            “Shitty orphanages don’t justify late-term abortion”

            But you’re OK with early-term abortions? Where would the pro-life movement be without supporters like you?

      2. This is what the LORD says: “A cry is heard in Ramah— deep anguish and bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted— for her children are gone.”

  15. Don’t EVER let yourselves be disarmed. There are worse things than civil war.

    1. An armed citizenry is the difference between revolution and death camps.

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