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One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment

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3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,208 ratings  ·  386 reviews
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
...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Petra-X
The "One Child" policy was a useless policy that because of the egos of the politicians involved not wanting to lose face went ahead and caused misery for years and their children, overwhelmingly male, are suffering from it. This is despite figures proving that it was unnecessary and there could have been a policy of encouraging voluntary family control and contraception as was successfully carried out in Korea - the slogan was, ""Sons or daughters, let's have two children and raise them well.". ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
While I felt it was well-researched and covered a wide range of topics that either impact or are impacted by China's One Child policy, I did not particularly enjoy reading this book. But since it was for my book club, I soldiered on.

One big issue is that while I typically enjoy memoir and personal essay, I don't think it worked well for the author to share her own fertility issues and Chinese heritage narrative. She is trying to tie her story to the Chinese story, but I felt it diluted the
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Mizuki
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bear in mind that this book is a banned book in China, and the Chinese translation of this nonfictional book only manged to find a home in Taiwan, where the government no longer dictates which books can be published ans read by the people.

People might be confused by the fact that a research book about the one child policy in China can get banned---but guess what...discussing and criticizing the government's policies and the many negative results said policies have caused is actually *still*
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Kaitlin
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked this one up today and ended up reading the whole book because it turned out to be completely fascinating and eye-opening. For some reason I was blissfully unaware how very recent the One Child Policy in China was stopped. I had heard of the policy, but I thought naively that it was from a long time ago, however this book showed me just how wrong I was and how much this policy has affected China now.

The story is told in first person from the author's PoV and she's a reporter who meets
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Becky
Recently I read a YA book that looked at how population control might be handled in a utopic society that no longer had any hunger, illness, or natural death, and that book decided that the means would be a sect of official killers called Scythes. Nothing was mentioned about trying to control population in any other way, like birth control or birth limits, etc, and thinking about that made me remember that I had picked up THIS book a couple years ago, and to move it up the queue.

As far as
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Vanessa
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction
This was a really shocking read - I had heard of China's One Child policy before, but I had no idea it was so recently introduced, and I had no idea of the ramifications it had for the country as a whole. This book made me in turns angry and sad, and had me shaking my head in disbelief over and over again. Despite being a piece of non-fiction, it reads like a dystopian novel (Mei Fong even references The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood as an incredibly bleak comparison). I really appreciated ...more
Cher
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars - It was really good.

Found most of this one (the first 80%) to be fascinating and informative without ever being dry or slow. Unfortunately I do not have the ebook or physical format (listened to it on audio), so I am unable to pull quotes. Would enjoy visaully re-reading this one in the future to highlight and review a lot of the more interesting segments.

As a childfree by choice woman, the unintended consequences of the one child policy were especially fascinating. The author, and
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Juliette
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
One Child was the second book in my imaginary trip to authoritarian states. I began this book immediately after The Girl with Seven Names, and, so, I inevitably contrasted the two books.
I learned much about the Chinese Communist Party’s One Child policy. It is not merely the fact that couples are only allowed one child. It is not merely that China is overpopulated. The government has set up various punishments for people who do not comply: forced abortions, infanticides, forced sterilizations,
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Bob H
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-history
This could have been a dry demographic study, but instead it's a powerfully-written, and poignant, account of perhaps the largest social experiment in human history. Mei Fong is a journalist, and the writing is concise and dramatic, but she also identifies with the story herself, as she is seeking to conceive a child as she explores a China that is coping, 35 years on, with a limited-child policy. She shows us how it has affected, has distorted, Chinese society, economics and future. The policy ...more
Louise
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it

Mei Fong tells of her personal quest to have a child as she covers the many issues around China’s one child policy. She is at her best in writing about the social changes that have resulted from 35+ years of this policy.

She covers how the policy came about, the bureaucracy that has developed to promote and enforce it, the difficulty of getting and interpreting statistics, the impact on the resulting imbalanced male and female population, overseas adoption, the issues of aging, and how couples
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❄️Nani❄️
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.75

“China’s one-child policy was crafted by military scientists, who believed any regrettable side effects could be swiftly mitigated and women’s fertility rates easily adjusted. China’s economists, sociologists, and demographers, who might have injected more wisdom and balance, were largely left out of the decision making, as the Cultural Revolution had starved social scientists of resources and prestige. Only the nation’s defense scientists were untouched by the purges, and they proved not
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Lauren
A sobering look at what happens when a national policy succeeds - and the far-reaching and unintended consequences of that "success".



In China, population growth took a great leap forward from 540 million in 1949 to over 800 million twenty years later... China had been practicing population curbs in fits and starts since the 1950s, mainly through legislating early marriage, as well as distributing condoms and IUDs.


The pre-cursor to the one-child policy was the 'Later, Longer, Fewer' campaign
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Helen
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-reading
This was a beautifully written investigation of how the policy came to be adapted in China in the late 1970s and exploration of its far-reaching and unanticipated consequences today. What really held me was that it's also a fascinating story with drama and interesting characters and unexpected settings...like a visit to a company that makes blow-up dolls for "bachelors". In a country with a giant gender imbalance--there are 30 million more males than females of marriageable age now--you'd think ...more
Navmi
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
'One Child' is probably the most insightful book about China's brutal population-control program. Started with a 'vital-for-development' pitch, it went on to wreck havoc in the lives of millions of Chinese and did irreplaceable damage to their sex ratio.

Fong writes about the horrors that went into implementing the program and the lasting effects it has had on Chinese economy and the way of life.
Louise
A readable but disturbing account of the stripping away of the human rights of millions of Chinese citizens via the imposition of the Government's One Child Policy (1980-2015).This book caused me to question the dominant role exercised by China in world affairs in 2017 and wonder if we should be more wary of its power.
Barb
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I marked up my Advanced Reader Copy with all sorts of notations and comments. I found so much of the information Fong includes fascinating, much of it also frightening. Here's a small bunch of what jumped out at me; China already has more than 40% of the world's Parkinson sufferers and it's predicted that number will grow to 60% in the next fifteen years. In 1996 the National People's Congress passed a law requiring children to support their aged parents. In 2013 Beijing followed up with a law ...more
Beth
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
With China in the news so often these days, and with the recent announcement that the country has now rescinded its One Child Policy, the timing on this particular book could not have been better. Particularly since the author is herself Chinese and lived in Asia for many years, her perspective is a much more fully-fleshed one than most.

Overall, I found the book fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measure. The stories of forced abortions, most have heard. The fact that there are vastly more
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Marina
** Books 114 - 2019 **

This books to accomplish Tsundoku Books Challenge 2019

3,8 of 5 stars!


This books is really mindblowing! I never knew the impact of one child policy in china can be like that. Somehow this books makes me frustated and sad how a girl is worthless than a boy in china. :'(

Thankyou Bigbadwolf 2019 in Jakarta!
Saumitra Thakur
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a really fun read. The author builds the compelling case that the one child policy was unnecessary, that its lack of need should have been apparent at the time, that its human cost was steep, and that its echoes will reverberate for decades.

The author is certainly partial, and she admits as much. I found myself at times reacting negatively to her, but that tension made the book that much more engaging.
Amanda Van Parys
This was a fascinating read on the near-mythical One Child Policy in China. As a child of the 80s, I remember some of the only things I learned about China was: thousands of years of dynasties, Huns, the Great Wall, communism, and everyone was only allowed to have one child. If I were born in China, I would have been among the first children born under this policy and I literally cannot imagine millions of single-child homes. The ramifications of this policy will be near catastrophic and we are ...more
Bigsna
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An account of what may possibly be the world's most extreme social experiment in modern times, ONE CHILD tells the story of China's one-child-policy, that was enforced in 1980 as a drastic family planning initiative to arrest its exploding population. The policy was phased out last year, in 2015, and this book takes a look at what this policy has really meant for the people of China, how it was implemented, and how it will take a long time for the country to recover from its impact.

Two of the
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Diana
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Story of How China Commodified Her Children
Most of us take our right to reproduction as a basic, immutable human right. That’s why even those who know very little about the most populous country in the world know that its’ citizens are allowed a maximum of one child per couple. Today, China is a country where commercialism seem to be the dominant characteristic of its people, and it is easy to forget that it is still a communist regime and not a democratic society. The One Child policy is a
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A Ab.
Jul 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is the story of the One Child Policy that the Chinese government had imposed on its citizens in 1980,to control the population growth. The plan was not a successful one and because of it so many lives were destroyed and after three decades China is confronted with "a huge elderly population".
The author is as if writing articles for a newspaper . It seems she had then tried to put them together.However she has not been successful.
Sometimes she has gone beyond journalistic profession and
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Kristiana
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was fascinating. Similar to Being Mortal, weaving a more personal tale of fertility into a rather large topic. It was really well done and accessible. The topic of our aging population has been in many of the nonfiction books I've read.
Madi Ojala
Wow, what a fantastic book, it opened my eyes to so many things that have happened in China's history that I never dreamed could happen to and within a country. Everyone should read this!!
George
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
COMPREHENSIVE AND INFORMATIVE.

“Fines intensified, and not just for unauthorized childbirth. Women were fined for living with a man out of wedlock; for not using contraception, even if it didn’t lead to pregnancy; or simply for not attending regular pregnancy checkups. In Jiangsu, women had to line up twice monthly for pregnancy tests and publicly pee in cups. The birth police weren’t squeamish about how they got the job done, and their methods produced results.” (Kindle Locations 1161 to 1164)

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Jenny
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-adult
This was fascinating...and heart breaking. While of course I knew about the "one child policy", I guess I had never really contemplated how the policy was enforced or the consequences that would result from this policy. I was heartbroken to hear that the much less punitive campaign "later, longer, fewer" (get married later, wait longer to have children, have fewer children) reduced the average birthrate from 6 children to 3 children in about a decade and would have likely led to the birthrate ...more
Dominic
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
rating

THE GOOD: Mei Fong gives us an insider look at the one-child policy in China & how it affected some people. Not only does she get pregnant in China and writes about it as she goes through the arduous process, but she also does her best reporting and gives us the personal stories from others as well.

THE BAD: I've always wondered how such a huge policy could be implemented and this book certainly answered many of the questions I had in mind. However, I docked a star simply because I feel like
...more
Katie
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was brilliant; one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. Fong is an incredible author. Her shift from journalism to penning a book has evidently been successful. I can see why she got the Pulitzer. The content was super interesting and I thought this provided a great balance between anecdotal and 'hard' evidence about the impact of the one-child policy. It was well structured and flowed nicely. It was refreshing to read a piece on content like this and not feel intimidated or ...more
Anatl
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a must book about the terrible repercussions of China's one child policy. I confess I didn't give much thought to the methods the Chinese government applied to make it's population comply with this policy, before I read the book, since I grew up to a world where the policy already took hold. Although the book focuses on personal interviews the repercussion of this policy can hit the economy hard, and that is a frightening concept.
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“As a bookish child, I would come to see the one-child policy as one of the most fascinating and bizarre things about the land of my ancestors, equal parts Aldous Huxley and King Herod.” 1 likes
“China’s one-child policy was crafted by military scientists, who believed any regrettable side effects could be swiftly mitigated and women’s fertility rates easily adjusted. China’s economists, sociologists, and demographers, who might have injected more wisdom and balance, were largely left out of the decision making, as the Cultural Revolution had starved social scientists of resources and prestige. Only the nation’s defense scientists were untouched by the purges, and they proved not the best judges of human behavior.” 1 likes
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