China’s one-child policy produced a generation of only children. What happens when they grow up?

Starting in 1979, families were allowed to have just one child — now these single children are pampered, lonely, and burdened adults
By Diana Fu - Published on November 13, 2018

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China’s one-child policy was instituted in 1979 to control population growth. Families that tried to have more than one child faced severe penalties: fines, forced abortions, and sterilization. As a result of the policy, the 1980s and 1990s produced a generation of “only me” children.  Only Me Generation takes you into the lives of people from this pampered, lonely, and increasingly burdened group. What happens when single children, who have grown up as “little emperors” in their own households, marry other single children? With no brothers or sisters to share the burden, how will this generation handle caring for elderly parents? More important, how will they deal with the government’s new family planning policies? 

Everything changed in 2016, when the two-child policy was introduced. The Chinese government realized that one result of the rapidly aging population was a declining labour pool, which would not sustain economic growth — it hoped to rejuvenate the population by encouraging people to have more babies. But social realities don’t always bend to the desires of planners. Many couples did not want to have a second child, because of the cost involved. The Chinese government is now considering scrapping limits on having children altogether. How will the only me generation cope with raising more than one child while fulfilling their filial duties to their parents? 

Chinese president Xi Jinping coined the phrase “the Chinese dream.” But what are the dreams of ordinary citizens? China’s 3 Dreams explores the hopes and aspirations of average Chinese people over the span of seven years. The older generation that lived through the tumultuous Cultural Revolution dreamed of owning a watch, a bicycle, and a radio — but younger people now dream of getting rich quick, finding true love, and creating a meaningful life. 

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