About the Trip

er ting wei xu, yan jian wei shi.
What you hear might be false, but what you see is true.


Our trip is centered on the nearly four-decade-old Chinese one-child policy, and now, its potential revision this spring. We all are highly interested in policy studies in China, given the country’s censored media environment, vast cultural landscape and millennia-old traditions. This type of public sphere — at once beautifully expressive and unimaginably rigid — is endemic to China and fetishized by American scholars. But at the root of it all, the very basis of China revolves around the most rudimentary unit of Chinese society: the family.

The one-child policy is both a limitation and a tool for cultivating the family unit. With the exception of ethnic minorities, foreigners and only-child parents, Chinese families are limited to one child each. Of course, many families choose not to follow this policy: some pay the hefty government fines, some have their “extraneous” children confiscated, some fly under the radar. For scaling purposes, families in Shanghai, for example, who choose to pay the fine pay up to three to six times the average yearly income.

The ramifications of such a policy are significant, both on a domestic and international level. Birth rate has fallen in the past decades, drastically altering the proportion of elderly people to young and middle-aged workers. With the Chinese tradition of children caring for elderly parents, there is both a sociocultural and demographic crisis. Workers and elderly with limited family backing are inclined to save rather than spend, weakening China’s consumption-heavy economy. Pension increases are fiscally impossible, especially with able taxpayers falling in the years to come. Most significantly, the workforce is declining due to the elderly outnumbering potential workers, putting China’s powerful economy and position in international relations in jeopardy.

The Project

Our project coincides with a critical period in Chinese society: the beginning of a global, social, and political awakening concerning the one-child policy. In the past few months, stories concerning one-child policy have exploded in global journalism, the catalyst being the graphic tale of Feng Jianmei, who received a forced abortion of her 7-month-old fetus in June 2012. As a formality, Chinese government apologized to Feng Jianmei, resulting in what is now a heated ongoing debate to revise the policy. There has never been so much press coverage about this policy in China and abroad, other than the policy’s mandate in 1979. Moreover, the group planning, research, and actual trip aligns with a rare block of political activity. Possible revision of the policy will not occur until early to mid-2013, when the entirety of the 12th National People’s Congress will assume power in Beijing. The election process runs from October 2012 to February 2013, during which our delegation will either be planning and researching the trip, visiting Beijing and surrounding areas, or back in New Haven presenting our work. The professors, journalists, government representatives, and NGO leaders will all be crucial in influencing the public when selecting the next Chinese government with the ability to unwind this policy. The next such election to revise the policy — if this Congress supports the one-child policy — will be in 2018.

While in China, our project seeks to accomplish three main goals. First, we will travel to Beijing to meet with and film renowned professors, journalists, activists, government officials, NGO leaders, orphanages, and elderly care centers to film, document, and gain an inside perspective. Second, we will travel to surrounding suburban and rural areas, where we can document several things — families who are hiding from policy enforcement, who have lost children to the policy, who worry about lack of elderly care, who give their female children up for adoption, who are struggling for stability. These individuals will be able to offer commentary and engage us in seminar-style discussion to allow us to think critically on China’s current economic/demographic crisis and position in international relations. Third, we will be constantly synthesizing notes, footage, and photography for themes and narrative tracks, in addition to intensively compiling and editing upon return to Yale. The takeaway will be a photojournalism and video documentary exhibit structured around narratives that features our interviews and guests.

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