How China’s One-Child Policy put Women in the Demographic Driver’s Seat

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The Thresh

Chinese WomenBy Bill Powell


Historically, China has been a patriarchal culture in which the subjugation of women is symbolized most cruelly by the phenomenon of bound feet, a practice that didn’t disappear entirely until the early 20th century. And it remains a male-dominated society today, never mind that ever since the ruling Communist Party came to power in 1949 it has trumpeted a phrase attributed to Mao Zedong: “Women hold up half the sky.” Indeed, the demographic imbalance between men and women speaks to just how male-dominated it remains. The combination of China’s one child policy and the advent of sonograms has meant that families who preferred a son could get what they wanted, aborting unwanted girls. The gender imbalance is a function of what Lauren Johnston, a Ph.D. student at Peking University writing a book on the subject, calls “the familial race to have an heir,” greatly intensified by…

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