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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2023
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Book description

Lasting from 1979 to 2015, China's One Child Policy is often remembered as one of the most ambitious social engineering projects to date and considered emblematic of global efforts to regulate population growth during the twentieth century. Drawing on a rich combination of archival research and oral history, Sarah Mellors Rodriguez analyses how ordinary people, particularly women, navigated China's shifting fertility policies before and during the One Child Policy era. She examines the implementation and reception of these policies and reveals that they were often contradictory and unevenly enforced, as men and women challenged, reworked, and co-opted state policies to suit their own needs. By situating the One Child Policy within the longer history of birth control and abortion in China, Reproductive Realities in Modern China exposes important historical continuities, such as the enduring reliance on abortion as contraception and the precariousness of state control over reproduction.


‘Centering women's embodied experience, Mellors brings a feminist analytic to an arena in which women shoulder an undue burden. From the late nineteenth century through the present and across three state regimes, women's wellbeing has consistently taken a back seat to nationalism, racial fitness, social stability and industrial production.’

Nicole Elizabeth Barnes - Duke University

‘Mellors Rodriguez brings refreshing insight into the complexities and variations in attitudes, policies and practices of birth control and abortion in twentieth-century China. Offering a nuanced perspective through personal interviews and archival research, this book will change what you think you know about China and its population policies.’

Tina Phillips Johnson - author of Childbirth in Republican China: Delivering Modernity

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  • 2 - Birth Control in Practice
    pp 44-72
  • Emmenagogues, Contraceptives, and Abortions, 1911–1949


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