There is a familiar story that, after China promulgated the one-child policy in 1980, millions of babies were aborted or murdered at birth. This in turn gave rise to the belief that most Chinese feel that boys are more desirable and valuable than girls. For the tens of thousands of foreigners who adopted Chinese children, the policy ‘proved’ that Chinese people were willing to abandon girls, thereby making their adoptions not only necessary deeds but also moral ones.
Kay Ann Johnson, a political scientist at Hampshire College in the United States, adopted a Chinese girl almost twenty-five years ago. She has written this book, which follows on from several academic articles, in the hope of assuaging any resentment her daughter may one day feel towards the unknown parents who ‘abandoned’ her. She also wants to persuade her not to wonder, as many adopted children do, what was wrong with her and what she did wrong to lose her parents.
Johnson demonstrates – more explicitly than I have seen anywhere else – that the 1990s, the period when international adoption of Chinese children first began, saw ‘one of the largest, most brutal birth planning campaigns that has ever swept the rural areas of central and southern China’. Throughout her book