Synonymous with economic growth, much of China's rise in power has been attributed to its 1979 reforms; where the population were rebranded to form ‘The world's factory.’

In conjunction with market-orientated economic reforms, a more divisive human-orientated, and one could argue ‘iconic’ policy was developed. This was the 'Policy of Birth Planning' (jìhuà shēngyù zhèngcè), known to many outside of the people's republic as the 'one-child policy.'

The policy as most understand it is perhaps misleading. Its implementation and stipulation vary a great deal from region to region, dependent on local governance and their interpretation. The policy as a whole involves a “systematic procedure for controlling the population” where the state has enforced a rapid fertility mechanism designed to cultivate a generation of “quality” which continues to shape the society today.

Now in its maturity the policy that was designed to accelerate China’s passage to the 'first world,' is having a multitude of growing pains. The experimental generation, which produced the ‘singleton,’ has found itself in the pages of the status quo. Within China itself it is said that children benefit from the increased resources devoted to them, particularly benefiting females allowing families to place all their investment in them, with no competition from sons. Mothers also have greater freedom to work outside the home and to acquire skills and training.

However, although China's population control is a benefit for the whole world, many side affects of the policy are more widely coming into question. This includes the exacerbation of a skewed gender ratio, unattainable filial investment, past and present incidents of excessive inhumane punishment and the largest aging population on earth.

As China continues on its path to modernisation, its citizenship are still governed by a promulgated logic that “the fewer people there are, the more resources there will be for each person.” This is echoed by most Chinese, who equate the country's problems to its mass population; where conflict and division remain an everyday part of Chinese life.  But while the one-child policy has been credited with lifting millions of people out of poverty by the one-party state, it remains to be seen if this mentality has a sustainable place in the ‘new’ China, as the factory of the world begins to lose its staff. 

Images from the series were published in the Sunday Times Magazine.


The work was also developed into a multimedia piece in partnership with the  Thomson Reuters Foundation which was presented at the 2013 Trust Women conference - Video


The work was also part of the New Futures exhibition shown in Great Eastern Bear Gallery, London investigating contempoary China.

​© Chris Barrett

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