Exploring China's One-Child Policy

China's one-child policy didn't happen overnight — it was normalized through propaganda, and serves as a warning against countries trying to control reproductive rights.

New perspective on the recent reversal of the policy

Filmmaker Nanfu Wang went through a personal journey while making her documentary One Child Nation. China’s one-child policy started in 1979 with the goal of controlling population. It was when she became a mother that Wang decided to revisit the controversial policy she grew up with in rural China. Her own parents had two children, since the law made an exception for families living in rural areas, as long as the children were at least five years apart — but not until after her mother narrowly escaped involuntary sterilization. Many other women were not so lucky. The policy’s mental, physical, and emotional toll on the country, especially its women, was tremendous.

Two months after Nanfu Wang gave birth to her first child, she was planning to fly back to the the Jiangxi province of China where she had grown up to see her family. Of course, it would be a chance to show the baby off to her family, but the visit wasn’t entirely personal. Her pregnancy, coinciding with the relatively recent reversal of China’s “One Child Policy,” which had forced generations of Chinese families to restrict the number of children they had, had gotten her to think about the devastating impact that such a law had across the country and in her own home.

While Wang was concerned whether she could ever return after her explosive debut “Hooligan Sparrow” implicated government officials in a cover-up when following the activist Ye Haiyan as she brought attention to the sexual abuse of a group of elementary school girls at the hands of their principal, motherhood had given her new perspective in a variety of ways, including how wearing a Baby Bjorn might give her cover. As part of the film, Wang conducted interviews with medical professionals’ smugglers politicians and members of her own family in an attempt to uncover the psychology of the one-child policy and its lasting impact.