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The Dark Legacy of China’s One-Child Policy
On the podcast: The filmmaker Nanfu Wang tells the harrowing story of her own family’s one-child ordeal.
In 1979, China imposed the most drastic population control law the world had ever seen: a mandate that each family was entitled to just one child. Over the next three and a half decades, implementation of the law was draconian: Forced sterilizations, forced abortions, and children removed from families were all common practice.
China officially ended the policy at the end of 2015 and undertook a radical shift, moving to incentivize having more than one child and to penalize those who don’t. That’s because the one-child policy so dramatically changed the demographics of China that the country is now dangerously aging. The number of men of child-bearing age far outstrips the number of women, and the birthrate remains low.
The filmmaker Nanfu Wang explores the impact of the one-child policy in a new documentary, One Child Nation. Wang grew up in rural China. She began pondering the impact of the policy when she became a mother herself. In parts of the film, she turns the camera on her own family and hears harrowing stories. Wang is our guest this week on First Person.