Western Adoptions, Chinese Mothers’ Pain

A new book looks at the issue of international adoption of Chinese babies from a perspective that is rarely heard: that of the Chinese mothers who give up their babies. From Maclean’s:

The Beijing-born Xue Xinran, who writes under the pen name Xinran, is known for giving voice to Chinese women—first on her radio program in China that aired from 1989 to 1997, when she moved to England, and more recently via her Guardian column and books, notably The Good Women of China. After that collection of real-life stories was published in 2002, Xinran was flooded with letters and videos from adopted Chinese girls and their families, she says on the telephone from her home in London. Many of the letters punctuate her new book.

The dialogue took on new intensity in 2004 when she founded the charity Mothers’ Bridge of Love for British families who adopted Chinese children. It provides cultural resources for adoptees and also acts as an advocate for special-needs orphans in China.

The book profiles 10 diverse women—educated urban dwellers, rural peasants, midwives, orphanage officials. The extreme variations in their circumstances is revealing in itself: no neat narrative exists to explain the off-loading or routine murder of Chinese girls. But these gut-wrenching, often perplexing stories do make clear that it’s simplistic to blame the one-child-per-family rule imposed 32 years ago to slow China’s population growth. What the edict did expose—and even exacerbate—was centuries-old discrimination against women. Murdering newborn girls—”doing” them, as it’s colloquially known—has been routine in farming communities for centuries, Xinran discovered. Crudely put, investment in girls doesn’t pay off: they aren’t as physically strong as boys, nor are they expected to support their parents in old age.

Equally entrenched, even now, are cultural biases that “good women” give birth to male heirs and having a female child first is a “calamity”—thinking that has created a profit centre for orphanages and midwives who run rackets promising they can ensure a baby will be a boy.

Read more about Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love.


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