The first day of 2016 marked the official end of China’s one-child policy, one of the most controversial and draconian approaches to population management in human history. The rules have not been abolished but modified, allowing all married Chinese couples to have two children. However, the change may have come too late to address the negative ways the policy has shaped the country’s demographics and the lives of its citizens for decades to come.
In this podcast, Jeremy and Kaiser talk with Mei Fong about the policy’s history, its effectiveness, and the consequences of nearly four decades of mandating a family’s size. Mei also discusses her heartbreaking encounters with parents who lost their only children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and their subsequent rush to have their vasectomies and sterilizations reversed. She provides insight into the people who designed the policy (rocket scientists—literally, rocket scientists!), those who enforced the rules, what lies ahead with the relaxation in the policy, the 30 million unfortunate bachelors who can’t find a mate, and the fate of grandparents who have only one descendant in a culture that used to regard a large family as the ultimate happiness.
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books, 2014)
- “China: When the Cats Rule,” by Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books, August 26, 2013
- “Sinica Backgrounder: The Past and Future of China’s One-Child Policy,” by Jeremy Goldkorn, SupChina
- “Sinica Extra: Q&A with Mei Fong on Her Pulitzer Win, Meeting Queen Elizabeth and Foreign Correspondence,” by Jeremy Goldkorn, SupChina
- “The One Child Policy, Plus the African Community in Guangzhou,” by Kaiser Kuo
- The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner, 2016)
- When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi (Random House, 2016)