Birthdate: March 20, 1996
Urogenital System: Normal
Lip and Palate: Normal
Height: 60 cm
Weight: 5.9 kg.
Chest X-ray: Normal
HB Test: Negative
Conclusion: Healthy in general, umbilical hernia
much to go on. All we knew was that she'd been abandoned as a result
of China's one-child policy.
took a blizzard of paperwork, a year of waiting, and about fifteen thousand
dollars to meet her. My wife, 8-year-old son, and I traveled to China
to pick her up. We called her Li, and it was love at first sight.
While waiting in a Chinese hotel with her
for her papers to come through, I reflected on a story I had heard of an American woman
adopting in Fujian Province who, after a few days with her child, was told that an error
had been made--that she’d been given ‘the wrong one.’ As I held Li I
had to ask myself—what would I do if someone said I had to give her back?
Even though I might get another one, is a child so easily exchanged?
At what point is a bond between parent and child irrevocable? Would I give
her up, or would I fight? That was the genesis of the book.
What is the one-child policy? And how has it led to so many abandoned
Chairman Mao encouraged large families, wanting bodies to propel his Great
Leap Forward. Only after his death did the Chinese government begin
grappling with overpopulation. The "one-child policy" was the result,
in which most families were limited to one child.
is a long-standing preference for males in the Chinese culture.
Parents need a son to work the fields, a son to care for them in old age, a
son to carry on the family name, a son to sweep their graves. If a man
has three sons and two daughters and you ask him how many children he has,
the response will often be 'three.' Daughters need dowries and then marry off, leaving to
care for their husband's family. Consequently, if the first-born child
under the new policy is a girl, she will often be abandoned, or worse,
giving the family an opportunity to try again for a boy. For twenty
years, the result has been a huge number of baby girls flooding the streets
and orphanages of China.
To most Westerners, this “one-child”
policy and rampant disposal of its daughters seems unspeakably cruel and
heartless. What is
unspeakably cruel, the cold-blooded answer of a totalitarian regime to an
intractable problem of overpopulation. In the fourth quarter of 2001, the
quotas had not been met in Huaiji, a poor county in the
province of Guangdong, and twenty thousand
women were forced to have abortions. This is not about pro-choice or
pro-life. It has to do with government intrusion into private lives, with
government ripping families apart, while not providing adequate
contraception or family planning education. The human suffering caused by
such draconian measures cannot be over-emphasized, yet the Communist Party
Central Committee has announced its satisfaction with the policy, which will
continue until 2050.
With the abundance of Chinese babies
abandoned, why does China place “special-needs” restrictions on so many
There are children in the system who might
not otherwise be adopted—children who often have minor, correctible
defects. Adoptive parents have a right to reject a child who does not seem
to fit their needs, though of course that creates its own heartbreak.
Throughout CHINA RUN, various members among
your large cast of Chinese bureaucrats, law enforcers, government officials,
and corporate powerbrokers echo a profound concern over saving face.
Why do you think this ancient emphasis on honor remains such a powerful
force in modern China?
‘Face’ is the essence of Chinese character.
Rooted in Confucianism, it drives behavior at all levels of life.
Westerners who are successful in dealing in China have recognized the issue,
and are careful never to place the Chinese in a position in which they lose
In your novel, the spokesperson for the
American consulate appears unsympathetic and unwilling to help his fellow
Americans in their quest to keep their adoptive babies. What power does the
American Embassy truly have to protect and defend American citizens within
the totalitarian confines of the People’s Republic of
Only the power of diplomacy and the power to
persuade—and then only where a political will exists to try.
Equally chilling is your depiction of the
repression of a CNN reporter at the hands of Chinese officials. What is the
real extent of freedom for the foreign press in China today?
There is no freedom
for the foreign or domestic press in China today. Chinese reporters face
imprisonment, while foreign reporters and photographers are harassed,
sometimes beaten, and occasionally expelled for writing stories that
displease the government. Journalists are sometimes detained until they
write ‘self criticisms.’ Even in liberal Hong Kong, a prominent China
correspondent and author was fired last year from the
South China Morning Post
for offending his superiors. It remains a classic battle of pen and sword.
What impact, if any, do American trade
policies have on the treatment and fate of Chinese orphans?
It helps create abandoned children, or at
any rate does nothing to reduce their number. Along with a multitude of
other human rights violations, China’s brutal population control policies
are ignored by the West in favor of ‘economic engagement,’ in the belief
that free market forces will bring about change more rapidly than economic
sanctions and aggressive diplomacy. One must ask one of the uncountable
thousands of cast-off children—almost all girls—whether that policy is
effective. Our voices of outrage have been stilled, purchased for a dollar.
What are the major obstacles for Americans
eager to adopt a healthy Chinese infant? What is the most important advice
you could currently offer hopeful parents?
Be patient. There is endless red tape
and paper. You will have to bare every aspect of your life, and then a
total stranger will come into your home, to decide whether you're fit to be
a parent. Two years can pass before you hold your child, and the cost
runs between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars. It isn't nearly as
much fun as making a baby the other way, yet the result is still a miracle
of perseverance and chance, and worth every aggravation.
What would you most like readers to come to
know about the complex culture and everyday people of China from their
encounter with CHINA RUN?
That the Chinese people love their babies as
much as anyone on earth. They comply with the one-child policy because the
price of disobedience is ruination. The government will levy impossible
fines, deny their unauthorized children access to health care and education,
and even bulldoze their homes. Although an underground movement exists to
resist this brutality, in which ordinary citizens become criminals in order
to protect babies, too often they do not succeed. When they fail,
infanticide, forced abortion, and devastated families are the result.
you think there is any systematic corruption in China’s orphanages? Any
abuse of children?
Orphanages are rarely open to outsiders, so
one can only surmise that the pervasive corruption infecting nearly every
other level of Chinese society exists within them as well. I don’t know of
any systematic abuse of children, other than the underlying one-child policy
itself. As the population of China becomes lopsided in favor of men, a
market in human flesh is naturally created. By the admission of the
Chinese government itself, literally hundreds of thousands of girls are
being kidnapped from backward rural areas, and sold to men who lack wives.
That is nothing less than slavery, an unintended consequence of heavy-handed
social engineering. There are now 117 men to 100 women in China. What will
happen as that ratio increases to 120? 130?