New China's "Family Planning" : Recommended Fiction Reading

By Bruce Humes, published

As Sheng Keyi writes in today's New York Times (Still No Dignity):

The Chinese Communist Party leadership announced on Oct. 29 the end of the one-child policy, to be replaced with a law that allows married couples to have two children. But dropping the one-child policy will not end the government’s control of women’s bodies. We still will not have the final say when it comes to our reproductive rights.

Clearly, the battle for those rights won't be won in a day.

In the meantime, let's make a list of Chinese fiction (both untranslated and translated) that touches on various aspects of China's Big Brother Family Planning Program over the decades. Mo Yan's Frog should be on the list, but that's an easy one. I wonder: Are there any novels or short fictional pieces out there about what it's like to live in China if you were a child born sans production permit, and therefore can't get a national ID?


# 1.   

There are novels and stories about the dramas brought about by the one-child policy , even as satire, like the novel by Li Er 李洱 published in 2004 : Cherries on the Pomegranate Tree 《石榴树上结樱桃》. It tells the story of a woman who is village head and tries to have the one child policy applied in the village because she is soon due for reelection. But reversing the story, getting stories viewed from a personal point of view, written by the very children born illegally, this is most interesting, but maybe still a bit early. I think the end of the one-child policy should be an incentive to write about those ghost children, although their fate is not yet clear.

brigitte duzan, November 12, 2015, 8:46a.m.

# 2.   

Hi Bruce, we asked for similar info in the comments on Read Paper Republic no. 21 (Lu Min's "A Second Pregnancy, 1980") so keep an eye out for comments there too.

Helen Wang, November 12, 2015, 11:31a.m.

# 3.   

The Guardian reports that the third edition of Sheng Keyi's popular novel Northern Girls (北妹), earlier published in China without problems, is now under the censor's scalpel.

Two passages, one about a forced abortion and the other about a "permanent solution" to a couple's reproductive functions, have reportedly been earmarked for removal.

Check out the interview with the authoress, and read translations of the offending passages here:

Publishers Under Pressure

Bruce Humes, November 14, 2015, 12:28a.m.

# 4.   

See also Chinese Literature and the Child: Children and Childhood in Late-Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction by Kate Foster (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 ISBN 9781137310996)

Abstract: Chinese Literature and the Child is a far-reaching study of images of children in post-Cultural Revolution novels and short stories. Considering works from over twenty writers, including some of China's leading literary stars, this book spans two decades of China's recent and rapid transformation. Tracking ideas of the child in Chinese society across the twentieth century, Kate Foster places fictional children within the story of the nation in a study of tropes and themes which range from images of strength and purity to the murderous and amoral. In this ambitious and revealing study, Foster views China's imagined children in relation to major shifts in Chinese culture and society and through literary theory, and argues convincingly for the significance of the child in fiction in the construction of adult identity in a time of change.

Helen Wang, November 17, 2015, 12:40p.m.

# 5.   

Mei Fong's book "One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment" provides a lot of interesting background. Review (by me) in the LARB:

Helen Wang, December 1, 2015, 9:19p.m.


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