kristof.new.184ASIA MEDIA WRITES – Ever wonder what in the world Beijing was thinking in Sept. 1980 when the national government took the first fateful step in implementing the ‘one-child’ policy?

Writing in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explains how it all fell into place – and then how it all fell apart. Blame not, concludes the columnist, the infamous Mao, but instead the technocratic and totalitarian-style government of his otherwise successful successor Deng Xiaoping.

Kristof’s platform for this view is a tightly written review of two splendid new books from noted authors. One is by Kay Ann Johnson, ‘China’s Hidden Children: Abandonment, Adoption and the Human Costs of the One-Child Policy’ (U.of Chicago Press). The other is by Mei Fong, ‘One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment’ (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

The value of Kristof’s presentation is its concision and precision. See: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/04/07/chinas-worst-policy-mistake/

Our own takeaway, besides the obvious (the policy was a blunder), is the risk of over-centralized government trying to manage complex social policy, even for decent motives. Citizen buyer beware.