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One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment Hardcover – January 5, 2016
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Honorable Mention, ASJA 2017 Writing Awards
"A searing, important, and eminently readable exploration of China's one-child policy."
— NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
“The policy itself remains a monument to official callousness, and Fong’s book pays moving testimony to the suffering and forbearance of its victims.”
— NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"Not to be missed ... [Fong] combines tough, broad economic analysis with individual stories."
— ECONOMIST / 1843
“A timely, important work that takes stock of the one-child policy’s damage…ONE CHILD is, like the policy’s abolition, long overdue, and Ms. Fong was the perfect person to write it.”
— WALL STREET JOURNAL
“Fong’s fine book is a moving and at times harrowing account of the significance of decisions taken by a small coterie of men with too much faith in science and ideology, and too little in humanity.”
“Fong writes eloquently and with an authority that reflects her knowledge of many cultures ... A deeply moving account of a policy that looks set to haunt China (and the world) for decades.”
— INDEPENDENT (UK)
“With impeccable timing, [Fong's] new book offers a superb overview... Fong writes in an easy, accessible style, and in 200 pages takes us behind the scenes of the Sichuan earthquake, the Olympic stadium in Beijing, the dancing grannies, the migrant workers, the orphanages, the transnational adoption of Chinese baby girls, birth tourism, and surrogacy. She fills in the background to these familiar subjects with impressive research and interviews, conducted over many years.”
— LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
"Fong excels in telling the personal stories of others, providing the reader with insight into how an Orwellian policy, rarely understood by outsiders, has played out in the lives of over a billion people."
“The country's one-child policy, to be officially phased out in 2016, created more far-reaching social distortions than even its most vociferous critics realized, argues Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Fong in this timely exposé of a reproductive regime whose inner workings Chinese officials have tried hard to keep under wraps… Finished just before the announcement of the policy's demise, One Child is a touching and captivating anthropological investigation of one of the most invasive laws ever devised.”
— KIRKUS REVIEWS
"Timely ... Compassionate ... Fong illumines individual grief and dignity ... [Her] human-scale portrayal of individual stories, weaving in her own fraught journey toward motherhood as well, makes for an approachable and edifying treatment."
— LIBRARY JOURNAL
“Mei Fong’s brilliant exploration of China’s one-child policy must change the way we talk about China’s rise. One Child is lucid, humane, and unflinching; it is vital reading for anyone focused on the future of China’s economy, its environment, or its politics. It not only clarifies facts and retires myths, but also confronts the deepest questions about the meaning of parenthood.”
— EVAN OSNOS, National Book Award-winning author of Age of Ambition
“Eye-opening, powerful, and utterly gripping, One Child had me hooked from page one. Mei Fong possesses a rare eye for the details that truly illuminate a story, the ones that most of us overlook. She writes beautifully and vividly, revealing sides of China I’d never imagined to exist.”
— AMY CHUA, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package
“Babies are a strange topic for a weighty book about China. But Mei Fong’s moving and highly personal account of the one-child policy will teach you more about the dysfunction and cruelty of modern-day China than any other. The story of her train ride to Sichuan Province with parents whose only children were killed in the 2008 earthquake is as heartbreaking as anything I’ve ever read about China.”
— BARBARA DEMICK, author of Nothing to Envy
“One Child is a critically important book about a major force that has shaped contemporary China, necessary reading both for policy experts and anyone interested in the future of one of the world's most important nations. But it is also a riveting read, written with the flair and compassion of a novel, that throws new light on the tough decisions we all face – and the joys we discover – in family life.”
— ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, author of Unfinished Business
“One Child is a timely and informative look into China’s infamous effort to control its enormous population. But Mei Fong has also given us a wry, bittersweet, and often very personal look at how courtship, marriage, birth, and death interact in the post-Mao Chinese family. A lovely antidote to decades of chillingly cold Party-speak from Beijing.”
— ORVILLE SCHELL, author of Wealth and Power
“Mei Fong reveals the dark underbelly of China’s one-child policy. Whatever the original intentions, its implementation led to heartache, human rights abuses, and coercion of women across the country. Also poignant is the fact that the legacy of this state attempt to control reproductive rights may linger as an Achilles heel derailing its economic rise.”
— PAUL FRENCH, author of Midnight in Peking
— XINRAN XUE, author of The Good Women of China and Buy Me the Sky: The Remarkable Truth of China’s One-Child Generations
"A highly impressive account of one of the controversial aspects of today’s China, combining policy analysis, extensive on-the-ground reporting, and personal experience."
— JONATHAN FENBY, author of The Penguin History of Modern China and Tiger Head, Snake Tails
From the Inside Flap
An intimate investigation of the world s largest experiment in social engineering, revealing how its effects will shape China for decades to come and what that means for the rest of the world
When Communist Party leaders adopted the one-child policy in 1980, they hoped curbing birthrates would help lift China s poorest and increase the country s global stature. But at what cost? Now, as China closes the book on the policy after over three decades, it faces a population grown too old and too male, with a vastly diminished supply of young workers.
Mei Fong has spent years documenting the policy s repercussions on every sector of Chinese society. In One Child, she explores its true human impact, traveling across China to meet the people who live with its consequences. Their stories reveal a dystopian reality: unauthorized second children ignored by the state, only children supporting aging parents and grandparents on their own, villages teeming with ineligible bachelors. Fong tackles questions that have major implications for China s future: whether its Little Emperor cohort will make for an entitled or risk-averse generation; how China will manage to support itself when one in every four people is over sixty-five years old; and above all, how much the one-child policy may end up hindering China s growth.
Weaving in Fong s reflections on striving to become a mother herself, One Child offers a nuanced and candid report from the extremes of family planning.
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The exploration of the many repercussions of China's one child policy was informative and engaging. There are so many connections to recent world social policies, population changes, and social dynamics that no one could have foreseen. As an open minded educated individual I see both sides of the coin: China was darned if they enacted this policy...and darned if they didn't. This book tells us what happened as a result of the One Child Policy. But what would have happened if they did not? How many more people would live in China? Pollution? Overcrowding? Women's roles? Elderly care? The education system? rural vs urban? The list goes on and on. Thank you Mei Fong - this was a most interesting subject. I highly recommend.
Mei Fong’s non-fiction book, One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment, offers an interesting, informative and comprehensive look at the history, the impact, and the likely long-term effects of China’s recent ‘one child’ policy. Once again, central planning equals uneven application, widespread corruption, and mostly misery to the affected populations.
Recommendation: If you’re interested in/bothered by overpopulation, and efforts to do something about it…you should read this book.
“In the end, perhaps the greatest damage inflicted by the one-child policy is how it forced people to think rationally—perhaps too rationally—about parenthood…” (Kindle Locations 3092-3093).
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kindle Edition; 4,625 Kindle Locations, 272 pages.
I soon borrowed the book; my wife hasn't seen it since Christmas Day. I learned much. Clearly, Fong's access to China and her language fluency allowed her to share insights that would elude journalists without these qualities. Yet, none of the insights were novel, and I was disappointed with both her bias against China and her celebration of the suffering of rural poor who happened to be male.
The anti-China bias manifested in (what seemed to me clumsy) attempts to find lessons about the one-child policy in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing -- both of which were painted in a very unfavorable light, with carefully chosen examples to highlight the horrors of modern China. While no doubt the response to natural disasters and the hosting of a global event reveal something about China worth knowing, these events don't seem the most natural flash-points for discussion of reproductive policy. It seemed more like an excuse to bash the CCP. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a stooge for communists. But such criticism seemed tangential and distracting in a book about reproductive policy, specifically. To put it a little differently, tracing the impact of the one-child policy on the 2008 olympics is like trying to understand Brown v. Board through the 1996 games in Atlanta, Georgia. Maybe there's something there, but I wouldn't start a book about desegregation that way.
As to the hardships of the rural, male poor, the insensitivity of the author almost brought tears to my eyes and nearly prevented me from continuing. Fong described how some young men in an agricultural community were lured into marriage by scammers. Because of the reverse-dowry system in China, the parents of the boys had to take out loans they might have to work decades to repay. The women vanished with the money, leaving the families in financial ruin and new husbands humiliated and heartbroken. Fong wrote something to the effect that this was something of a victory for women in a country that had oppressed them. I couldn't help but think of my students in China, their parents, and the hardships they endure. To celebrate their suffering in the name of feminism seems as perverse as celebrating forced abortions in the name of patriarchy.
Again, I learned much. But I would hesitate to lean too much on this reporting in building up an understanding of China.
Part memoir and more investigative journalism, Fong does a serviceable job of providing context for understanding the why and how of China's one child policy before examining its short and long-term consequences.
This is an engaging and superbly researched and written book by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mei Fong about the world's largest ever social experiment -- China's one-child policy. The personal stories in the book will grab you and keep you reading until the end. It begins to answer some thorny questions such as... How is the policy enforced? What happens to you if you have more than one child? What happens to child #2? What if your only child dies - will the government "let" you have another?
The effects on multiple generations of parents and kids and on the country and the world will be felt for decades. Once I started I couldn't put it down.