Curated Resources for Further Learning
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Lesson One: Abandoned Baby
Title Reading LevelDescription
Group A: China's One-Child Policy and Gender Imbalance
Overview Materials
China’s Looming Crisis, A Shrinking Populationall reading levelsThis story is by far the most concise telling of the population crisis in China due, in large part, to the nation's enforced population reduction policies. Its excellent graphics display visually what has happened in the last half century with China's population. A go-to resource.
China’s demographic crisisall reading levelsConcise background on the relationship of China's one-child policy to what in 2019 is being described as the nation's demographic crisis.
China Sees Fewest Births in 2018 Since Mao's Great Famineall reading levels"Births in China dropped to the lowest level in almost 60 years in 2018, signaling the country’s looser two-child policy has done little to reverse its slowing birthrate, and worsening the outlook for growth in the world’s second-largest economy. The number of babies born last year fell by some 2 million from 2017, to 15.23 million, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday. Demographer He Yafu said it was the least since 1961 and the third-lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949."
Opinion: China's Demographic Crisis Is a Realityall reading levelsThis opinion piece, published in one of China's leading independent dailies, Caixin, speaks to the enormous challenges that China now faces in trying to convince couples to raise more than one child.
China's lawmakers push to 'liberate fertility'all reading levelsA short video by Reuters encapsulates the reasons why China needs to increase its fertility rate and the great challenges they have in doing this.
China should simply adapt to fewer births and an ageing societyall reading levelsThis observer of China's population trends argues that since "having a small family has become the norm in modern China, it is futile to try to reverse these trends by any economic incentive as it is unlikely to be effective or cost-effective." From an economic standpoint, this writer urges China to focus on increasing the quality of its workforce, not its quantity.
Forty Years of Family Planningall reading levelsA pictorial display of forty years of family planning messages/propaganda that appeared on walls and posters throughout China. Scroll through the years to see how the images and messages evolved.
Too Many Menal reading levelsA text and graphical exploration of what happens to a nation when birth practices and policies lead to a hugely abnormal sex ratio and a nation must cope with the consequences of having too many men, as is happening in China and India now.
Invisible lives: A legacy of China's family planning ruleall reading levelsThis 15-minute film provides a grounding in understanding how some families in China responded to the one-child policy – and describes how this policy was enforced on the local level.
Sinica backgrounder: The past and future of China’s one-child policyall reading levelsBefore delving into specific topic areas, below, explore this collection of articles about the past and future of China's one-child policy.
China could scrap two-child policy, ending nearly 40 years of limitsall reading levelsAs China drafts its new civil code, it is looking more likely that all family planning restrictions will be lifted in 2020. This story contains graphs that show the nation's dropping fertiility rate and its increasing proportion of elderly people in its population.
China’s Two-Child Policyall reading levels"Please have another baby. That’s China message for couples after decades of limiting families to just one child. Why the turnabout? China’s aging. By 2040, projections show that 24 percent of the population will be 65 or older, a slightly higher rate than in the U.S. and more than twice India’s share. This threatens an economic boom that’s been built on a vast labor supply. And there may not be enough able-bodied people to take care of all those seniors. So in 2016, China changed its rules to allow as many as two children. But many couples weren’t convinced that two were better than one. Now there are indications that China is about to remove the limits altogether, as births in 2018 fell to the lowest level in more than five decades."
China's New Unwantedall reading levelsThis 42-minute video explores the changing population in China's orphanages. The children now being abandoned are overwhelmingly disabled; gender is not as large of a factor as it was in the earlier times of China's one-child policy.
‘She’ll die if she stays with us’: note found on sick Chinese baby abandoned in parkall reading levelsWhen a child is born with a chronic illness such as epilepsy, families often cannot afford the medical treatments necessary to keep the child live. When this happens, the family sometimes abandons the child with the hope of the child receiving the care and treatment she needs.
Couples Not Delivering on Beijing’s Push for Two Babiesall reading levelsTwo years after China moved from its lengthy one-child policy to a two-child policy, information about births is proving worrisome for China's demographers who had expected a continuing increase in the number of births. This story provides excellent graphs that highlight this worrisome fertility trend in China.
From Mao to Now: Timeline of China's One Child Policyall reading levelsTouching Home in China developed this timeline, based on primary source material to which links are provided as part of this timeline, so that students can explore China's one-child policy in the broader context of the People's Republic of China's birth planning and population policies since its founding in 1949.

Uproar over ‘wacky’ plan to start baby boom in China by taxing adults under 40
all reading levelsAs China discovers how difficult it is to convince couples to have more than one child, a few economists come up with strategies proposing that government officials tax people under the age of 40 who do not have more than one child. Many Chinese pushed back against this idea, saying that it reminded them of the government coercion that was part of enforcement of its one-child policy.
Chinese couples might be paid to have more children, report saysall reading levelsDemographic research is convincing policymakers that more dramatic action is needed to defuse demographic time bomb.
China’s Low Fertility Rateall reading levelsAn excellent chart to see what's happened to China's fertility rate since 1960 and how it compares to several other countries.
Challenging Myths About China's One-Child Policyhigh school and aboveDownload a pdf version from The China Journal to discover how academics challenge four prevailing myths about China's one-child policy. Guidance they provide about political and economic considerations help to explain, in part, why China embarked on and sustained the one-child policy for nearly four decades.
China's One-Child Policy and Gender Imbalance
Middle School and Above
China’s Two-Child Policymiddle school and aboveThis Bloomberg story presents a solid overview of China's two-child policy by explaining why it was implemented and the effect it is having on families and women workers, in particular. For an update on China's two-child policy, here is this 2018 Bloomberg story from The Washington Post:
Not Simply Abandoned middle school and aboveA mother and daughter return to China to search for the daughter's birth family. In their meetings with possible birth parents, they learn the circumstances under which their children were "abandoned."
Chinese Couples Want Boys — Trust Me, I’m a Fertility Doctormiddle school and aboveWe read about how wealthier families in China's biggest cities now prefer to raise daughters than they do sons, but this doctor in China says that couples who come seeking his help in having a child want him to help to be sure they give birth to a son.
Many of China’s ‘missing girls’ are likely hidingmiddle school and aboveThis story explains the significance of this new research that is revealing the presence of many girls in China's population that until now were thought to be "missing."
A Letter to a Once “Hidden” Child — That’s Memiddle school and aboveThis personal essay describes the experience of being a "hidden daughter" in China.
China's Lost and Found Daughtersmiddle school and aboveAn excellent video story brings us inside the lives of two daughters given up by their families in China who are seeking a reunion with their birth families.
A Short Pictorial History of China’s One-Child Policy Propaganda middle school and aboveThis picture story shows changes in political messages through the decades. Even before the one-child policy went into effect in 1980, the Chinese people were being told that having fewer children was their national duty to make China a better place.
China keeps finding millions of people who never officially existedmiddle school and aboveThis article discusses how children who were thought to be missing from the population are turning up in census counts; this leads scholars to believe that there is less of a gap between the number of men and the number of women than was thought earlier.
How quickly can China come back from its one-child policy?middle school and aboveThis CNN video explains the challenges China confronts due to its long-term One Child Policy.
One Child Policy: Facts and Details middle school and aboveAn historical overview and informational resource with a lot of links to various aspects of China's one-child policy, compiled by educator Jeff Hays.
China's Gender Imbalance Likely to Declinemiddle school and aboveAs Chinese leaders were starting to make some changes to the one-child policy, the All-China Women's Federation published this story detailing recent year's male-heavy sex ratios at birth.
Chinese City Urges People To 'Appreciate The Significance Of Having Two Children'middle school and aboveThis article discusses how government officials in China are now pressuring famlies to have two children. (For another take on what a news reporter calls 'China's Demographic Timebomb', go to this story at
A New Baby Boom Is Happening in China’s Smaller Citiesmiddle school and aboveWhile demographers in China question whether China waited too long to switch to a two-child policy, other observers say that smaller cities in China don't have the facilities or professionals needed to care for the additional babies being born under the two-child policy.
China Mulls Incentives to Entice Parents to Have Second Childmiddle school and aboveWith many families unwilling to have a second child due to financial constraints, the Chinese government tries to come up with incentives for families.
China Fining Parents for Second Kid Born Before One-Child Policy Scrappedmiddle school and aboveFamilies that had a second child before the one-child policy was changed are still being fined for doing so, even though there is now a two-child policy in China.
From Mao to Now: Timeline of China's One Child Policymiddle school and aboveTouching Home in China developed this timeline (based on primary source material) so students can explore China's one-child policy in the broader context of the People's Republic of China's population policies since its founding in 1949.
China's One-Child Policy and Gender Imbalance
High School and Above
The True History of China's Disastrous One Child Policyhigh school and aboveHarvard Professor Martin King Whyte reminds of us of why China established its population policies and assesses their lasting consequences.
Mei Fong on the one-child policy, its consequences and what’s next for China’s demographicshigh school and aboveIn this podcast, Mei Fong, the author of "One Child" talks about the one-child policy’s history, examining its effectiveness and the consequences of nearly four decades of the government mandating and monitoring the size of families in China. Here's a review from The Guardian of Mei Fong's book offering lots of background on China's one-child policy: One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment by Mei Fong review – a harrowing examination of social control:
Family Planning Reform May Not Resolve Challengeshigh school and aboveIn the spring of 2018, word surfaced that the Chinese government is planning to get rid of all family-planning restrictions, which means that any married couple can raise as many children as they choose to do. It is still the case that unmarried women are stigmatized for having a child out-of-wedlock. There are many who believe that these changes come too late to make significant differences in many of China's pending demographic challenges.
The worldwide war on baby girlshigh school and aboveThis story in The Economist places China's sex ratio in a global context while also detailing the gender-related consequences particular to China.
Baby girl wrapped in plastic sent by courier to China orphanagehigh school and aboveThis is a rare story about abandoned babies that appeared in China's news outlets. The reporters tell stories about children being abandoned without context of overall circumstances involving abandoned children mostly due to fear of censorship by government authorities.
China Should Scrap all Family Planning Ruleshigh school and aboveCaixin, an independent news organization in China, published this opinion piece calling for government leaders to come up with policies to encourage births "before it is too late."
High Court Accepts Appeal Against Family Planning Finehigh school and aboveA high court in China will hear a case brought by a family who contends they should not have to pay a "social maintenance fee" for an over-quota child born during the one-child policy era now that China allows couples to raise two children.
China unveils two-child policyhigh school and aboveThis CNN story – video and text – explores China's decision to institute the two-child policy, which it introduced in January 2015.
How likely are Chinese to have more kids, now it’s legal?high school and aboveIn this PRI radio interview, China correspondent Mary Kay Magistad assesses the likelihood of Chinese families having more than one child now that the one-child policy has been lifted.
Two is too much trouble': will China's parents rush to have more children? high school and aboveIn this Guardian newspaper story, some experts predict that switching to a two-child policy will "do almost nothing to boost China’s low fertility rate, which experts put at between 1.2 and 1.5 children per woman."
How China is rolling out the red carpet for couples who have more than one childhigh school and aboveChinese leaders are offering families benefits as a way to encourage them to have more than one child. This story emphasizes how the government's approach to talking about family planning is changing, too, from one of control to support and encouragement.
Chinese City Urges People To 'Appreciate The Significance Of Having Two Children'high school and aboveMore information on how government officials are pressuring families to have two children.
Pregnant Women in Chinese Province Must Keep Children in New Measure to Create Gender Balancehigh school and aboveThis state media newspaper describes one province's new policy designed to closely monitor women's pregnancies, in this case to get them to give birth to girl babies as China encourages more couples to have more babies.
China Should Allow Three or More Children: Top Demographerhigh school and aboveIn February 2017, one of China's leading demographers is urging the government to increase the number of children that a family can have to three.
How Chinese Art Explores its one-child policyhigh school and aboveThe BBC's article by journalist Clarissa Sebag Montefiore describes artist Prune Nourry’s "Terracotta Daughters," which is featured the Abandoned Baby story's gallery called "Lonely Childhoods and Missing Girls." This article will be especially helpful to students in thinking about their Reflection and Action project. Here is a link to a short trailer for the film made about Nourry's "Terracotta Daughters."
In South Korea, parents are increasingly saying, 'we hope for a girl'high school and aboveListen to and read this story done by PRI's The World about how parental views are shifting about the gender of child they want to raise.
The plight of China’s family plannershigh school and aboveFor its one-child policy, China created a bureaucracy of family-planning (birth planning) cadres to enforce rules and regulations. With the two-child policy and fewer couples wanting to have children, the roles played by these hundreds of thousands of government employees are diminishing. The question is what will happen to them as their duties are phased out.
"China's 'missing girls' theory likely far overblown, study shows")high school and aboveScholars are reopening discussion about China's gender imbalance, as their demographic research shows that fewer girls might be "missing" from China's overall population than previously thought.
Missing Girls or Hidden Girls?high school and aboveYong Cai, a scholar who has studied deeply China's one-child policy, argues that "the conventional wisdom about the missing girls phenonmenon in China" is accurate and how their absence creates a "real social challenge that China has to face now and for the foreseeable future." Library access to The China Quarterly is necessary to access this entire note and evidence.
China's One-Child Policy and Gender Imbalance
University Level
Have China’s Missing Girls Actually Been There All Along?college and aboveTwo scholars examine and criticize recent research findings related to speculation about "missing" girls in China. The China Quaterly article can be read at
Challenging Myths About China's One-Child Policycollege and aboveDownload this pdf from The China Journal to discover how several academics challenge four prevailing myths about China's one-child policy. Information they provide about China's economy and political system explain, in part, why China embarked on the birth planning effort and sustained its one-child policy for nearly four decades.
Asia's Missing Millionscollege and abovePublished as an educator's resource in the Winter 2017 issue of Education about ASIA, this articles traces how societal views and birth policies in China and India came together to result in millions fewer girls than boys being born in these countries during the past four decades.
In Vietnam, anguished mothers search in vain for the children they have lost to China’s booming ‘buy-a-bride’ tradecollege and aboveAs the effects of China's longstanding one-child policy play out, mothers in neighboring countries now search for their daughters who were trafficked into China to become brides of rural men who are not able to find Chinese women to marry due to the gender imbalance.
Population, Policy and Politics: How Will History Judge China's One-Child Policy?college and aboveUniversity-level students: In Population and Development Review, scholars examine China'a adoption of the one-child policy and trace the reasons why successive leaders kept it in place so long despite undesired consequences.
China is phasing out its one-child policy for the wrong reasonscollege and aboveAn adoptee from China who is now a college student writes from her heart about the expected change in policy in China which will enable families there to have as many children as they want to have. She still feels anger at the one-child policy that led to her being abandoned.
Beijing calls for baby boomcollege and aboveListen to a fascinating discussion among scholars and experts about the consequences of China's one-child policy as the government made the decision in October 2016 to transition to its two-child policy.
The CCP's Evolving Role in Chinese Bedroomscollege and aboveSharing an insightful dive into the history of how China's government policies and practices have influenced sexual relations and the lives of women – starting with Mao's Cultural Revolution. This story provides a counter-narrative to the view of Mao's era as being one of sexual repression.
Review of Outsourced Childrencollege and aboveIn "Outsourced Children," sociologist Leslie K. Wang aims to reconceptualize the unidirectional perspective that views adoption as a one-way migration of children from poor countries into richer ones.
China’s unfinished gender revolutioncollege and aboveThis EastAsia Forum article, authored by Yang Yao and Wuyue You of Peking University, speaks to the historic (1950-1980) correlation in China between greater involvement by women in the Communist Party and a decrease in the nation's gender imbalance.
Group B: Impact on Girls' and Womens' Lives
Overview Materials
China’s Secret Children Step Out of the Shadowshigh school and aboveAt a time when China might be moving away from any family planning policy – and, in fact, urging couples to have more children – this story offers three personal testimonies to how the one-child policy impacted their lives in major ways.
China Dropped Its One-Child Policy. So Why Aren’t Chinese Women Having More Babies?high school and aboveLeta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women, explains why educated women in China are not eager to have a second child – even though family planning policies now enable them to do so.
Vietnamese teen's escape from the China trafficking trade that sold her motherhigh school and aboveThrough this story of two generations of women in this Vietnamese family, we experience one of the most pressing consequences of China's one-child policy – the trafficking of women into China to be brides for China's "surplus" rural men.
China’s one-child policy has a legacy of bereaved parents facing humiliation and despairhigh school and aboveWhen couples strictly adhered to China's birth-planning protocol and then lost their only child to an early death, they are given a name that means “lose only." "Shidu is the term that has been used by the media since 2010 to refer to parents who have lost their only child and are no longer able to have another. According to a 2013 report by the China National Committee on Ageing, a government branch overseeing the country’s increasingly grey society, there are at least one million shidu parents in China, and the number is increasing by 76,000 a year."
Impact on Girls' and Womens' LivesMiddle School and Above
How the one-child policy has improved women's status in China middle school and aboveThis article argues that the One Child Policy has greatly benefited the status of Chinese women, and that the shift to a so-called Two Child Policy is actually a setback for women’s rights in China.
China’s one-child policy: I am not alone at being alonemiddle school and aboveAn exposition on the author's personal experience with China's one-child policty
China's One-Child Daughtersmiddle school and aboveIn this essay, the creator of Touching Home in China describes how China's one-child policy has led to only-child daughters experiencing very different trajectories than past generations of girls growing up in rural China.
As China’s One-Child Policy Relaxes, Girl Children No Longer Stigmatizedmiddle school and aboveThis story in The Daily Beast invites observers of China's one-child policy to explain why the value of women in China has actually increased as a consequence of its one-child policy.
Just married at 13: Inside the child marriages that are on the rise in rural China after nation abandons one-child rulemiddle school and abovePhotographer Muyi Xiao documented cases of southern China's teen brides and grooms who still live in their rural hometowns.
Impact on Girls' and Womens' LivesHigh School and Above
China’s ‘Giant Infants’high school and above A member of China's one-child policy generation writes an essay about how growing up as only children in a society in which family values were changing influenced the character and temperment of young adults.
What’s life been like for the only children born under China’s one-child policy?high school and aboveFor almost two decades, Vanessa Fong has followed a contingent of young people who are growing up as only children in China due to the one-child policy. This story about her research offers a terrific overview of her evolving findings from her on-going study, especially about the changes in girls' lives.
The Truth About China’s Missing Daughtershigh school and aboveIn 2016, Kay A. Johnson, a parent of a daughter born in China and a professor of Asian Studies at Hampshire College, wrote "China's Hidden Children," a book challenging the assumption that Chinese families do not want to raise daughters. She reveals through stories what happened to many daughters that Chinese families tried to hide from authorities so they would not be discovered and taken away.
China's one-child policy led to my adoption - and a more privileged lifehigh school and aboveIn a Washington Post's Opinion section, Ricki Mudd wrties of being adopted as an older child after her birth family tried to "hide" her with another family. She also chronicles her trip back to China to see her birth parents, as well as telling about her younger brother's decision to join her in America.
A ‘Lost’ Daughter Speaks, and All of China Listenshigh school and aboveJenna Cook, an adoptee from China, writes this essay to tell about her search but also to express the enormous pain she'd absorbed from these many birth parents who came forward thinking she was their child.
The Truth About China’s Missing Daughtershigh school and aboveIn her review of Kay Ann Johnson's book, "China's Hidden Children," Kathryn Joyce shows how the author debunks the idea that families only wanted sons.
A Nation’s Buried Painhigh school and aboveIn this essay, Kay Johnson explains how and why she tells stories of "the buried pain of Chinese birth parents who lost children in the era of the harsh population control policies known generically as the One-Child Policy," in her book "China’s Hidden Children: Adoption, Abandonment and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy."
A Letter to a Once “Hidden” Child — That’s Mehigh school and aboveSimeng Dai, one of China's "hidden daughters" during the one-child policy, tells her life story.
China’s Hidden Childrenhigh school and aboveThis brief article explains why it's important for a child in China to be given a hukuo (household registraion) at birth and describes why it's extremely difficult for some families to make this happen for their child.
Gender and Family in Contemporary Chinahigh school and aboveWith insight into cultural traditions in China, this 9-page report by the Population Studies Center offers a good overview on recent changes in gender relations and family structures.
China's One-Child Mothershigh school and aboveA Chinese daughter, writing in Foreign Affairs, describes the emotional turmoil the one-child policy brought into mothers' lives – and how its legacy endures in their generation.
Jiangsu’s Abandoned Girls and now Women search for birth parents who left them on the street after family planning crackdown. high school and aboveThis story is about a 38-year old Chinese woman, abandoned as a baby and then adopted by a Chinese mother. After her mother died, she was reunited with her birth family. A photo essay at the end of her story features several other women who were abandoned when they were very young and grew up in adoptive families in China. Jiangsu is the province where the girls in Touching Home in China live.
China's Worst Policy Mistake?high school and aboveIn this New York Book Review essay, Nicholas Kristof writes about the book "China's Hidden Children" which is about girls who were raised by someone other than their birth families so that their own family could have a son.
A Letter of Frustration and Gratitude on the end of China's One-Child Policyhigh school and aboveA 25-year-old adoptee from China, writing in the Huffington Post, expresses how she feels in hearing the news that China is ending its one-child policy. This policy likely led to her abandonment and international adoption.
What future for women in Chinese higher education?high school and aboveIn Times Higher Education, reporter David Matthews describes how China's one-child policy led to more young women enrolling in universities in China, which, in turn, is leading to societal changes in China. He raises the question of whether China's new two-child policy will reverse these gains for girls.
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