Author: Nick Schager
The new documentary ‘One Child Nation’ examines China’s draconian, decades-long one-child policy, which resulted in countless abductions, forced abortions, and child deaths.
One Child Nation is a stark reminder that America isn’t the only country where a woman’s right to control her body has been under siege. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and premiering in select theaters on August 9 courtesy of Amazon, directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s heartrending documentary examines their native China’s one-child policy, which functioned as a systematic attack on its female population—and which resulted in collateral damage on an international scale.
In effect from 1979 to 2015, China’s policy placed strict guidelines on reproduction in order to curb population growth, which Wang’s mother proclaims (parroting the Communist Party line) might otherwise have led to famine and potential cannibalism. Urban citizens were limited to a single child, while rural inhabitants were, in the mid-1980s, granted the opportunity to have a second kid. The law outlined strict punishment for non-compliance: the destruction of homes, forfeiture of property and valuables, and steep fines. Those who suffered those penalties, however, got off easy, since local Family Planning Officials—empowered by the Nationalist Party—also had the authority to abduct women, tie them up, and force them to undergo sterilizations and abortions as late as 8-9 months into their pregnancies.
As the filmmakers detail in a series of stunning conversations with residents of Wang’s hometown (and similar provinces), those procedures often entailed murdering infants after they’d been born. Artist Peng Wang presents photos of discarded fetuses he found in trash dumps, wrapped in yellow “medical waste” bags, as well as one deceased newborn that he kept in a formaldehyde-filled jar. Even in a doc rife with horror stories, these images are difficult to shake, underlining the unthinkably callous consequences of a strategy that the Chinese government proclaimed would double everyone’s standard of living.
Read More: Here