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Home » What It Was Like To Grow Up Under China’s One-Child Policy: Nanfu Wang (Transcript)

What It Was Like To Grow Up Under China’s One-Child Policy: Nanfu Wang (Transcript)

Nanfu Wang – Documentary filmmaker

My name is Nanfu. In Chinese, “nan” means “man.” And “fu” means “pillar.”

My family had hoped for a boy, who would grow up to be the pillar of the family. And when I turned out to be a girl, they named me Nanfu anyway.

I was born in 1985, six years before China announced its one-child policy. Right after I was born, the local officials came and ordered my mom to be sterilized.

My grandpa stood up to the officials, because he wanted a grandson to carry on the family name. Eventually, my parents were allowed to have a second child, but they had to wait for five years and pay a substantial fine.

Growing up, my brother and I were surrounded by children from one-child families. I remember feeling a sense of shame because I had a younger brother.

I felt like our family did something wrong for having two children. At the time, I didn’t question where this sense of shame and guilt came from.

A year and a half ago, I had my own first child. It was the best thing that ever happened in my life. Becoming a mother gave me a totally new perspective on my own childhood, and it brought back my memories of early life in China.

For the past three decades, everyone in my family had to apply for a permission from the government to have a child.

And I wondered what it was like for people who lived under the one-child policy. So I decided to make a documentary about it.

One of the people I interviewed was the midwife who delivered all of the babies born in my village, including myself. She was 84 years old when I interviewed her.

I asked her, “Do you remember how many babies you delivered throughout your career?” She didn’t have a number for deliveries. She said she had performed 60,000 forced abortions and sterilizations.

Sometimes, she said, a late-term fetus would survive an abortion, and she would kill the baby after delivering it. She remembered how her hands would tremble as she did the work. Her story shocked me.

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