A Harvard Apologist for China’s One-Child Brutality

The phrase “dominant narrative” is a sure sign that a postmodern, anti-Western or anti-male story line is about two seconds away. It appears early in a flattering Harvard Gazette profile of Susan Greenhalgh, “the newest professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences” at Harvard. The profiler, Katie Koch of the Harvard Gazette staff, says Greenhalgh “seized the opportunity to counter the dominant Western narrative that Chinese citizens are uniformly coerced into complying with the one-child rule.”

Preposterous arguments usually have a one-word escape hatch somewhere, and the one in the previous sentence is “uniformly.” No, the policy hasn’t been “uniform”–there are exceptions–but it has been an incredibly brutal and savage story, not just in “the dominant Western narrative,” but in the real world. Greenhalgh says of the one-child policy, “The Chinese state is nothing if not clever and strategic in terms of displaying various forms of statecraft.” This is an unusually repellent opinion. What’s next? Hailing the Nazis for the clever and strategic statecraft of the Final Solution?

There are many “narratives” of China’s policy. Here’s one, recounted by Steven W. Mosher in The Human Life Review. Li Aihai, a happily married mother of a two-year-old living in Gaungdong province, had permission to bear a second child, because the first was female. But she was supposed to wait four years and didn’t–her state-implanted IUD apparently failed. She became pregnant and was told to appear for an abortion. She fled with her infant to stay with relatives. Nine members of her family, including her parents, were arrested and jailed. Three months later, a state wrecking crew appeared and destroyed her house, then the houses of her parents and her in-laws. After giving birth, Li Aihai returned, and the furious authorities fined her the equivalent of $2000, a great deal of money at the time. When she paid that off, the authorities fined her again.

That was in 2000. Writing in 2006, Mosher says: “The program continues to be carried out, against the popular will… Home-wrecking, unlawful detention, heavily punitive fines, and like measure, continue to be, as they have been from the late 1970s, the whip hand of the program… Entire villages are punished for out-of-plan births. Officials conduct nighttime raids on couples suspected of having unauthorized children… Forced sterilization is used, not only as a means of population control, but sometimes as punishment for men and women who disobey the rules.”

In what kind of “non-dominant narrative” is this not a horror story?


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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3 thoughts on “A Harvard Apologist for China’s One-Child Brutality

  1. Mr Leo, there is a difference between the policy itself and how it is carried out. Despite the absurd punishment procedures adopted by the Chinese government, which is not uncommon for the current scoundrel government, we should weigh the value of the one-child policy in itself. The mother in the article says that the carrying-out of the policy is against popular will, and coming from China I can testify that this is obviously false. Most people are in favor of imposing some restrictions on child birth, because “we don’t wanna become India”. As for the specific content of the policy and how it is carried out, that is totally a different matter.

  2. About the Chinese “one-child” policy: It reminds me of the old adage, “Never intervene when your enemy is busy destroying himself.” The only real down side for Americans is that there will be an overage of Chinese males (compared with females) that will have to be dealt with in one way or another.

  3. Mr Leo, you seem to forget that you are applying Western morals to “the other”. This has been deemed evil by those who now teach Social Sciences to college students, which is why Prof Greenhalgh can make the statements she has.

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