Sacrifice Triumphs across Generations in Chinese One-Child Families

By Violet Jiang

The old Chinese saying “I will do whatever it takes to serve my country, even at the cost of my life, regardless of fortune or misfortunes to myself”  is a virtual reflection of one-child families of China.

Certificate of the Only Child: each couple will receive a red certificate as a reward and proof of obeying one-child policy
(by Chang Ting, this picture is retrieved from

When China’s population was approaching 1 billion back in the 1980s, the one-child policy was put in effect as a basic state policy to effectively restrict population growth.

People followed their father’s, grandfather’s and great grandfather’s footsteps to make sacrifices for collective interests by bearing and raising only one child. This policy shows  collective human sacrifice in historic proportions pursuing sustainable civilization goals.  One-child families set the pulse of economic growth for China.

There is only one opportunity per family to have a child.  The birth of a child requires permissions from employers and the government.  Children need to be certified before they are born in order to receive legal state identities. Without ID’s, government benefits pertaining to education, healthcare and housing are not available. 

I am my parents’ only child and grew up believing I was their first and only baby. But it turned out two others could have preceded me.

When the policy change to loosen one-child rules was announced on Nov. 15, an undercurrent of pain surged through my heart.  I was mourning for my lost siblings, who rested in my mother’s womb before me, but got “taken out” for the lack of legal identity.

Though I knew they had used some anti-pregnancy techniques that prevent women from having extra children, I was unaware exactly how lucky I became as the only child. The policy offered me many privileges.  But I saw little dark side until I understood why I have no siblings. 

I was entirely stunned when told there was once a boy, a big brother who I’d have been keen to share with my parents.  And the lonely hole in my heart belongs to him.

After 3 decades, when individual sacrifices are rewarded with increasing national power, once again, single child families are experiencing a twist of fate.  After rumors about loosing it, lifting the one-child edict finally received government endorsements.

Now, it’s time for the only-child generation to decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for the policy shift. Embrace the second kid and shoulder responsibilities of taking care of 6-8 persons’ well-being (grandparents from both sides, 2 children and 2 parents) , or keep having only one child and duplicate lavish, but lonely childhoods for their own kids?

China’s future will evolve with family decisions made in the next generation.

Photo by Chang Ting. this picture is retrieved from

About Violet Jiang

Flying Elephant oversea
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