China instituted the single child per household policy in 1980. Married couples were restricted to having a single kid to curb the growing number of people in the republic. The law was imposed mostly in crowded urban centers, but those in rural regions were permitted to have another child. Their culture, or so the world was made to presume, valued sons more than girls, permitting them to bear another child when their first was a girl. 35 years later, Kay Ann Johnson, a parent of an adopted Chinese daughter, confronts the inadequacies of this policy in her book entitled “China’s Hidden Children”. She narrates the story of the Chinese people, especially those who had to give up their children to avoid punishment from the government. Over 100,000 girls exited the country with 85% of them relocating to the United States.
Johnson spent a considerable amount of time interacting with affected families that had to give up on raising their daughters. She explains that most of them struggled with the decision and were only fearfully forced to do so due to the threat of facing penalties. Even though most literature painted the republic as having a cultural preference for sons, the majority of the parents wanted to raise their daughters. The writer grows compassionate towards their plight, seen in how she describes the desperate measures that the Chinese people went through to hide their children from government officers. They went from hiding and handing them up for adoption to sending them to live with other relatives in the rural areas. Others resorted to living them in public places or selected doorsteps. The strategy created a distasteful image, especially to the external world that could not comprehend the Chinese culture. Johnson discloses the misconceptions, secrecy, and the complex struggle of love and abandonment while addressing the negative impact that the family planning campaign had on the people of China.
Contrary to how the world perceives China, Johnson’s interaction with the locals proves otherwise. The author gives a descriptive narrative, providing emotive stories that contradict the myths about the Chines people and their “patriarchal” society. She highlights various events as will be reviewed in this section to bring clarity to the infamous one-child policy that left the country in a state of disarray, and whose effects are felt to the present day. She also attempts to comfort the girls who were aware of their plight that may be feeling rejected or abandoned. Some of these outstanding events are discussed below:
- a) Formulation versus execution of government policies: mandatory pregnancy test andabortions
The government authorized and appointed officials to conduct mandatory pregnancy tests to married women in various regions. The checks were conducted every three months and those whose results came out positive were forced to procure abortions. In another incident, Li Quilang fell victim to an oppressive rule when she was forcefully induced to give birth at seven months old, killing the infant and almost her life with it. Initially, the young lady had permission to keep her pregnancy, but the family planning officers ordered her to carry out an abortion in fear of a possibly uncontrolled birth rate in the coming year. The government had made exceptions for situations for example single parents, those who have disabilities, or those who have girls as their first child. Li was bearing her first baby, and even her mother-in-law’s pleas about her frail health did not hold weight. She was by law eligible to have the child because it was only her first pregnancy.
Words such as inhuman, gross, imprudent, and insensible can be used to describe this action. It is only an indication that most governments will go to any lengths, regardless of whom gets hurt along the way, to implement their policies. It brings about the discussion of formation versus implementation of rules. China appeared to be introducing a reasonable enough policy to control the high birth rate experienced. The deal looked good on paper, as it even had room for exceptions. It was passed off as a realistic approach to a nation’s concern about future resources but implemented as an inhuman war against giving birth. This seems to be an approach by most governments, depicting some of their rules as dutiful causes to the public and using hostile methods to carry out the rules.
- b) Democracy: the poor versus wealthy people of China
Governance should be about protecting the civilian’s interests but in this instance, it failed significantly. In politics, the poor people have no voice and democracy favors those willing to pay for it thus favoring the wealthy. The poor citizens constantly faced barriers in trying to save their daughters. Even though the exemptions did not specify any economic class, those targeted were the poor. The regime introduced an adoption fee for anyone willing to adopt children. The price was set so high that the art became an exclusive trade for international citizens. Johnson in her book states that the relatively wealthy people in Europe and Northern America were the ones able to afford child adoption. It is also a case of the highest purchaser winning, as seen in how they ended up taking youngsters already adopted by others and assigning them in orphanages to be sold to foreigners.
In another incident, the parents of Victory, a young girl taken from her parents at only nine months old was placed in an orphanage. The parents had successfully managed to hide their child but unfortunately got caught. They even attempted to adopt Victory by promising to pay any amount that was requested of them, and sent other relatives to try the process but also failed. This was an indication that the orphanage was aware of the benefits of waiting for foreigners who were the highest bidders, and true to the statement, Victory was adopted never to be seen by her parents again. The government also introduced fines for women who got pregnant or got their husbands fired from their employment places. Families that were already struggling did not wish to risk their source of livelihood and reluctantly performed abortions or resorted to other means of hiding their daughters.
- c) Societies fighting oppression: the alternative approaches used to counter the birth control rule.
The Chinese leaders used a totalitarian form of governance to enforce this law. The residents were unable to react to this system of dictatorship due to the brutality in implementing the law. While the rule was being passed, it was meant to work for the nation, but turned out to be a form of oppression. Unable to react, the citizens had to find an alternative way to defend themselves and their daughters. The poor people especially suffered a great deal in looking for alternative methods as they lacked money to pay the high adoption fees and fines imposed. They opted to send them to relatives in the countryside or carefully selected homes to place them in, by leaving them at the doorsteps of these homes.
In her book, Johnson speaks of a lady known as Gao, who was expectant again after having a male child. Her kin was unable to persuade her to get an abortion undoubtedly knowing the consequences she faced. After delivering a girl, she left her at the doorstep of a distant family member and alerted them using firecrackers. The distant couple was able to raise the child until the administrators discovered their plot. The officials knew of her after four years and insisted on getting the child removed from that area. Gao objected to getting back her child and sourced funds for the current custodians to pay a hefty fine. They were so afraid of the government taking action on them that the girl only got to know of her genetic dad in the hospital before passing away, and the mother attended her wedding from a distance. It is an indication of how powerless they were against the government, but nevertheless found alternative means to counter the repressive rule. Other people choosing to adopt stranger’s children was also an indication of how the community strived to help each other out in a situation which its members lacked the ability to react.
- d) The impact of international relations: human trafficking trade
According to Johnson’s book, the issue of birth control shifted from being a strategy to counter the rising population level to being a viable business opportunity with the west benefitting the most. It appeared as a win-win situation for both countries because the orphanages were run by the government while the foreigners felt as if they were relieving the daughters of China from a life of hardship. However, these countries contradicted their claim to preach the enforcement of human rights while they took part in violating the same laws they formulated. International politics play a significant role in influencing domestic governance in any state or country. The Western nations were the ones who first highlighted the issue of republics needing to manage their population to avoid resource depletion. Being superpowers, other countries had to oblige for the sake of maintaining diplomatic relations with the West, and because their population was growing out of control.
The major superpowers hold global domination over other nations and had China refused to comply with the rule, they would have possibly faced sanctions directly or indirectly. Some of the standard methods used by superpower nations to punish smaller countries include creating trade obstacles by introducing new trading laws, increasing international business tariffs, or choosing to form relations with other regions in the import and export business. They may also refuse to grant loans or donate funds for developments, and introduce travel advisories for their citizens complicate the entry process for citizens of defaulting countries. These international giants also appear to intervene in solving global issues when they only do so in situations that interest them or those they can benefit from. As much as China was responding to a social cause for alarm, they were also influenced by the authority exerted by Western nations on other countries at that moment. China itself grew into being a superpower country and is an equal playing field with the rest.
- e) Government public relation tactics: avoiding direct blame
Most governments, including the Chinese one, have devised strategies of detaching themselves from situations that make them look unpopular in the public eye. It is a public relations strategy meant to cover up the deeper issues nations face. One of the strategies that China’s administration uses is appointing other people, preferably local ones, to carry out their orders. In this book, Johnson narrates of officials appointed to enforce the law through inhuman acts such as forcing pregnant women to undergo abortions. One would assume that the government is entitled to taking care of these appointed officials due to the nature of their work, but, instead, they are threatened by salary reduction as one village elder lost half of his wage due to this. The government is careful not to get drugged in the mud because these officials are the ones recognized by locals and hated for their actions. Meanwhile, the government can easily detach themselves from these acts by stating that they did not ask officials to force women to dispose of their pregnancies but only instructed them to monitor the households and ensure the law is met.
Targeting females was also a strategy by the government. First of all, they made the country look like it preferred sons and quickly gave away their daughters. This policy also plays on the psychology of married couples who desired to raise families. Since the government only recognized boys as being essential to the country’s growth, they had no choice but to keep trying until they had male kids. This assured them of their children having a place in a society that were already struggling with social issues such as poverty and unemployment among the majority. Men were viewed as vehicles for economic growth and national development, and the woman’s place was traditionally at home. Johnson’s book was met with a lot of surprise at how people though all along that the Chines people had a cruel culture of abandoning its girl child when in the real sense they suffered the loss of their daughters just as any other parent would normally do.
China eventually lifted the ban in early 2016, but it did not come without adverse effect (Fong 7). There was not much to show positively as there was negatively about the country’s situation. First, there was a lot of brokenness between families and a feeling of rejection among young women. Such an effect leaves a permanent emotional mark in those girls without anyone to give them reassurance. These ladies grow up feeling worthless and questioning their role in society. Their parents were filled with eternal grief and hopelessness due to their inability to save their children, and others who were unfortunate enough to be forced to procure abortions had to deal with the trauma for the rest of their lives. Secondly, the law led to a gender inequality, and it is projected as a critical condition that the imbalanced ratio has resulted in the migration of men to other countries to seek partners. Researchers indicate that the law did not produce results to the extent that was estimated or hoped for.
The government acted out of the immediate need to find a solution to overpopulation, but they used the wrong strategy. I was surprised at the extent to which governing bodies go to in the implementation of their policies. I was among the people who believed that China had a cultural preference for sons, only to realize that it was a “development” strategy for the Chinese regime to keep the “superior” gender at that time to promote national development. I was also surprised to learn that superpowers like European countries and the United States actively participated in human trafficking and overlooked the human rights angle that they always campaign for. By reading this book, I understood that politics has little to do with governance and representing the needs of the majority, but the actions were taken and policies put by a few superior people in a state meant to protect their personal interests and align themselves with the right people.
Fong, Mei. One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment. , 2016. Print.