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Why Everyone Needs to Watch This Horrifying Documentary on China’s One-Child Policy


 “We sort of have an idea of how awful China’s social experiment was, but that awfulness is multiplied by a thousand as you watch the first-hand accounts featured in Wang’s film.”


The documentary is called “One Child Nation,” and it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 before Amazon Studios picked it up as the primary distributor.

The film eviscerates China’s grotesquely evil one-child policy and, in the process, exposes the atrocities that are commonplace within authoritarian regimes.

Although it’s been out for a few years, the documentary should be on every parent’s watchlist, mainly because the population control freaks refuse to go away and hide their heads in shame. They would love to find a way to restrict births.

But before we get into those details, let’s take a step back to consider the broader worldview implications regarding children and the family.

Remember now, culture and politics ultimately flow downhill from a society’s theological starting point.

Meaning that what a people believe about the nature of God — does He exist and are we accountable to Him? — will inevitably inform their attitudes on matters pertaining to civic life, including what laws we legislate.

Perhaps no better illustration of this theological reality is how differently Christians and Progressives treat kids today.

Christians believe that children are a blessing from the Lord that we should cherish, protect, and have in abundance, as the Bible instructs.

Progressives, on the other hand, reject that divine value placed on children and view unborn babies, in particular, simply as appendages of the mother that can be removed at any stage of pregnancy. 

Yet it’s not just with abortion fanaticism (or transgender mutilation) where progressives show their disdain for the next generation.

It’s with their environmental activism as well.

For decades liberal elites have been pushing depopulation as way to fight poverty and promote “green” sustainability.

And their advocacy hasn’t let up.

In 2020, for instance, the celebrated conservationist Jane Goodall told the World Economic Forum that,

“We cannot hide away from human population growth because it underlies so many of the other problems. All these things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if the world was the size of the population that there was 500 years ago.”

A year earlier at the Population Matters Conference, she bluntly stated, “We can’t go on like this. We can’t push human population growth under the carpet.”

Goodall’s alarmism will turn out to be as reliable as the failed mass starvation predictions that Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich peddled 50 years ago using similar arguments.

Whether now or in the past, this is the belief that has animated progressive thinking.

Children are not perceived as image bearers of God fashioned with the potential to produce wealth and innovation, but rather as one big drain on global resources.

And this mindset has led to devastating results around the world.

Probably the most infamous example is when the People’s Republic of China in 1979 mandated a one-child policy, supposedly to avoid catastrophic famines.

Which brings us back to “One Child Nation.”

The documentary was produced and directed by Nanfu Wang, who was born and raised in China and only started to question her country’s actions after she had a son of her own.

We sort of have an idea of how awful China’s social experiment was, but that awfulness is multiplied by a thousand as you watch the first-hand accounts featured in Wang’s film.

Here’s one: A midwife admits on camera that she was personally responsible for some 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions in just one region alone.

“I counted this [number] out,” she lamented, “because I aborted and killed babies. Many I induced alive and killed. My hands trembled doing it.”

When women refused sterilization, she added, they were “abducted by government officials, tied up, and dragged to us like pigs.”

Basically, it’s the story of Pharaoh and the Israelites but with a morbid twist: The midwives in this version didn’t save the helpless babies in defiance of an immoral edict; instead, the midwives themselves became the instruments of death.

What’s worse, the midwives are celebrated publicly!

There’s footage from a 2002 Chinese award ceremony — a mere 21 years ago — where “family planning” reps are literally applauded by the government for facilitating the “familial bliss” of one-child households.  

Then there was the propaganda.

And there is no propaganda like communist propaganda.

It was attached to calendars, card games, school curriculum, television programming, snack boxes, operas, folk arts — you name it — all hailing that “familial bliss.”

If the propaganda didn’t work, there were always the threats.

These were some of the messages that were inscribed in public areas.

They weren’t idle threats, either.

Non-compliant families had their homes razed or their possessions stolen, one village enforcer confessed.

The truly gut-wrenching part of the documentary, however, is watching this unfathomable hostility toward children spill over into the general population.

Since households were restricted to one kid only, Chinese parents wanted a boy to carry on the family name — so much so that fathers and mothers were willing to discard their infant girls after birth and “try again for a son.”

In fact, that’s what exactly happened with Nanfu Wang’s cousin after she was born.

The uncle abandoned his own daughter with the help of his kin.

Wang’s mother described the incident as follows:

“We couldn’t discard the baby in broad daylight. So we carried her in a basket, climbed over the mountains when it was still dark out. We put $20 in her clothes and left her on the meat counter in the market. For two days and two nights she was there. No one wanted her. Her face was full of mosquito bites. She eventually died.”

Awfulness multiplied by a thousand, right?

In 2015, the Chinese Communist Party reversed course.

They are now encouraging couples to have up to three children.

Apparently, snuffing out one’s offspring is not in a country’s long-term economic interest, especially with aging demographics.

It’s almost as though there are existential consequences for coming down theologically on the wrong side of an issue as important as the family.

Who would’ve thunk it?

“One Child Nation” has its blind spots (it is Hollywood), but overall, it is a compelling documentary that reinforces the hell that is unleashed when progressive radicals who don’t even believe in God attempt to play God.

Watch it while you still can.

Follow Jason on Twitter! @JasonMattera

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.