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At JLF: Can China Own the 21st Century, If It Doesn’t Let Its Women Own Their Reproductive Rights?

  • IWB Post
  •  January 23, 2017


Will China Own The 21st Century?’

At the Jaipur Literature Festival, three renowned authors who have recently written their books on China: ‘The phoenix years’ by Madeleine O’Dea, ‘One Child’ by Mei Fong, and ‘Street Of Eternal Happiness’ by Rob Schmitz, shared their thoughts and understanding of the internal and external state of the world’s second largest economy.

Madeleine O’Dea through her book moved back and forth between historical events and her personal narrative of China’s free spirited citizens. She explained how China has stumbled repressively over the last 40 years and how its citizens have imagined a freer China. She said,  “We don’t understand the internal economics of China as we do the external. As the 2nd largest economy – the expenditure of China is also the 2nd largest in the world.”

Taking the discussion forward Rob Schmitz made some interesting remarks. He said, “Externally China shows itself as a super power but internally it has many problems. China has become richer but has also become regressive. Public debt is at a massive dangerous level.”

Mei Fong told the story of the consequences of China’s decision to restrict its population size. She said, “When I was growing up, we saw China as our poor cousin. So what happened that now we see it as a threat? In my opinion, the local government does not want to make any bold moves.”

Fong’s book talks widely about the one-child policy and other significant decisions taken by patriarchy with a mere understanding of womanhood; the decisions driven by ideology. Another poignant fact is that the State’s attempt to control reproductive rights excluding the voice of women from the decision has affected its economic rise to an extent.

Mei Fong has also given us a wry, bittersweet, and often very personal look at how courtship, marriage, birth, and death interact in the post-Mao Chinese family.

She also ventures to remote villages where local officials are charged by the central government with maintaining the one-child policy, leading to cases of forced abortions. One such case in 2012, where a woman named Feng Jianmei was held down and injected forcibly with an abortifacient, even caused a scandal within China and a declaration by the national authorities that they would review the operation of the policy.

C Rajamohan who was moderating the session signed off by quoting a Chinese saying, “Large countries and small fish should not be overdone.”

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