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For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy. Many people assume that our last name—Wing—is Chinese, so when my husband and I decided to adopt from China, our friends were amused. How funny that we would now actually be a Chinese American family. Adding to the joke, my husband likes to say that our daughter adopted us.
The family planning program, usually referred to as the one-child policy, was instituted in Because of the traditional preference for, and dependence upon, sons, if a family could have only one child, it wanted to make sure it was a boy. There were often harsh penalties for defying the law by having more than the legally permitted single child, but emotional and social devastation for complying.
Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of girls were abandoned. As the Chinese say about such matters, yu ku wu lei —a sadness beyond tears. The infants and children were secretly, and illegally, left in public places—train stations, markets, parks—with the clear intention that they would be found and saved.
The worst-case scenario is the possibility of infanticide. Certainly there have been gender-based abortions, even though laws are on the books forbidding medical professionals from telling parents the sex of the fetus revealed by ultrasound. The skewing of the population has left many young Chinese men unable to find women to marry. The hundreds of thousands of over-quota female children who were abandoned wound up in Social Welfare Institutes throughout China.