One Child Nation

Clearly functions as one of the most powerful as well as meaningful documentaries of 2019.

One Child NationOne Child Nation, directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, explores the history of China’s one-child policy that began in 1979 and ended in 2015. The film exposes the drastic consequences of a national policy aimed at reducing the country’s population in order to attain greatness in multiple areas.

Ms. Wang, born in China and growing up in the United States, returns to China to document the trauma experienced by millions of Chinese citizens as a result of this policy. In the process she opens up a hornet’s nest that leaves you emotionally suffering in your seat as you watch Chinese families suffer on the screen.

To begin with, it was not easy for most Chinese families to accept this rule. To the contrary, given that a male child was viewed as necessary to sustain the family’s ability to maintain an acceptable living, they simply couldn’t stop procreating until a son was born. As a result, despite the fact that this rule was vigorously put into effect nationally in 1982, many families saw the need to violate it. Punishment was meted out by the Government in the form of sterilization, forced abortions and jailtime for many who sought the need to have more than one child in their family.

Ms. Wang interviewed a number of these people and their stories were shocking in every respect. Twins were separated at birth with one being sent to an “orphanage” where they were sold at a large fee to Americans seeking to adopt. Equally horrific, body snatchers made a living kidnapping kids off the street, being handsomely paid after dropping them off in that same “orphanage.”

The diabolical consequences of the one-child rule were most evident when Ms. Wang interviewed parents who never again saw their baby child. Equally ghastly, when she and her husband were able to use DNA samples to identify a kidnapped child now living as a teenager in the United States, adoptive American parents would not allow their Chinese daughter to communicate with her sister or original family for fear of the consequences.

Ms. Wang also compared the forced abortion policy in China with the attempt to restrict it in the United States. Despite the obvious differences, she found that the two policies had one thing in common, namely to deny women the right to control their own bodies. She clearly found it reprehensible that one country would require abortions to eliminate the size of their families while another country sought to deny it to force a woman to have as many children as possible.

Though China ended their policy in 2015, they replaced it with a new requirement that limited the family to two children. While it is too early to judge the effect of the new policy, you can only dread the impact on families seeking to quietly have three or more children.