A heartbreaking examination of the reasons why Chinese women give up their girls for adoption.
A radio presenter in China until her move to London in 1997, Xinran (China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation, 2009, etc.) was stunned by the ignorance of Westerners regarding the Chinese, especially Chinese women. Separated from her parents during the Cultural Revolution, the author hardly knew her mother, and these stories of mothers who abandoned their girls form an especially personal journey for her. By the end of 2010, there will have been more than 120,000 Chinese orphans (mostly girls) adopted worldwide, nearly 80,000 in America. The rate of adoption has steadily increased largely since the economic reforms began to kick in by 1992, though by 2006 the Chinese government had put the brakes on its adoption policy. In traditional farming communities, girls have been abandoned since ancient times, as a girl’s work is worth less in terms of farm labor and she cannot inherit the family line. The one-child-per-family policy, drawn up in 1979, was also carried out crudely, mostly in eastern China’s more urban areas, and everybody wanted a boy. Moreover, Xinran found, sex education was so inadequate at the same time that Western mores exploded in the 1990s that children of unwed mothers were routinely abandoned. These are horrific stories, involving panic-stricken young mothers abandoning newborns wherever they can; grief-stricken mothers who try to kill themselves by swallowing pesticides; the routine act of “doing” an infant girl in peasant communities by throwing her in a slop pail; infanticide that is systematically carried out under the full knowledge of police and hospitals; and the desperate straits of the orphanages. Xinran’s personal attempt to adopt a girl only to have her vanish into the Chinese bureaucracy makes for a poignant ending.While incredibly moving, these stories also impart a shocking lack of regard for human life on the part of the Chinese.