Readers would be forgiven for thinking that the announcement, on Oct. 29, 2015, that China was changing its one-child policy would have turned this book from an account of the daily lives of Chinese people into a work of history. Not so. The event itself came rather late for Mei Fong's "One Child." But she makes disconcertingly clear that the repercussions of population control will continue to reverberate throughout China. The policy itself remains a monument to official callousness, and Fong's book pays moving testimony to the suffering and forbearance of its victims.
2015年10月29日，中国宣布改变其独生子女政策，所以，如果读者觉得这本书已经成为历史，不再同中国人的日常生活有关，这种想法也是可以谅解的。但事实并非如此。对于方凤美(Mei Fong)的这本《独生子女》(One Child)来说，这件事来得有点迟了。但是她发出了不和谐的声音，表明人口控制所带来的后果还将持续在整个中国造成影响。这个政策本身仍然如同一块碑石，记载着当局的冷酷无情，而方凤美的书为那些计划生育政策的牺牲品们提供了感人的证词，记载了他们的苦难与忍耐。
Population control was not unusual in the 1980s. India also had a fertility-control program. The United Nations gave its first-ever population award to the Chinese minister for population planning in 1983 (along with Indira Gandhi). But China's application of population control was particularly ruthless.
In 2012, Feng Jianmei, a factory worker pregnant with her second child, was taken to a clinic, forced to sign a document consenting to an abortion and injected with an abortifacient. She was in her seventh month. Pictures of her lying next to her perfectly formed seven-month dead fetus went viral. But hers was hardly an unusual case. In the 1990s, population targets became a major criterion for judging the performance of officials. It is no surprise that they carried out the one-child policy ruthlessly. Reading this account, one wonders why rape as a weapon of war is (rightly) seen as a war crime, whereas the forcible violation of women's bodies in pursuit of government policy wins United Nations awards.
As Fong makes clear, the one-child policy was not just a crime. It was a blunder. Fertility would have fallen anyway, as happened in other Asian countries, albeit not quite so far and fast. But the policy further distorted sex ratios, resulting in more boys than girls. And it changed expectations: Most people now want only one child. That is why the policy may prove to be hard to reverse.
The greatest strength of Fong's book is her reporting (she was a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in China). Fong meets Liang Zhongtang, who fruitlessly attempted to dissuade China's leaders from adopting the policy in the 1980s. She interviews people at adoption agencies that are suspected of seizing second children and selling them to Westerners. She sees Tough Pig, a boar that survived for 36 days without food or water under the rubble of a vast earthquake in Sichuan Province. The earthquake highlights how unexpected are the tragedies of China's population policy: Thousands of only children were killed when shoddily built schools collapsed, leaving their stricken parents childless — a disaster in a country where the importance of family has survived even the one-child restrictions. Unlike the earthquake, that policy was — and remains — an unnatural disaster.