One Child Nation

One Child Nation

March 30, 2020


Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang

Nanfu Wang's acclaimed One Child Nation explores the devastating impacts of China’s one-child policy.


About the Documentary

China’s one-child policy, the extreme population control measure that made it illegal for couples to have more than one child, may have ended in 2015, but the process of dealing with the trauma of its brutal enforcement is only just beginning. From award-winning documentarian Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation explores the ripple effects of this devastating social experiment, uncovering one shocking human rights violation after another — from abandoned newborns (almost always girls), to forced sterilizations and abortions to government abductions. 

As the film unfolds, Wang, a native of China, digs fearlessly into her own personal life, weaving her experience as a new mother and the firsthand accounts of her relatives with archival propaganda material and testimony from victims and perpetrators alike, yielding a revelatory and essential record of this chilling moment in human civilization.  One Child Nation reveals how the Chinese government’s relentless campaign of propaganda brainwashed its citizens into committing unspeakable crimes and serves as a harrowing indictment of the mindset that prioritizes national agenda over human life. Featured is the midwife who delivered Nanfu and all of the babies in her village, who estimates that she performed 60,000 abortions while the policy was in effect. Most unsettling is the testimony of one of China’s most decorated family planning officials who, in clinical detail, explains how she executed her mandate. Traveling from village to village, she sterilized women and performed abortions, many on women who resisted and had to be caught and restrained. But, “If I could go back in time, I would do it again,” she says in the film.

The Filmmakers

Nanfu Wang

Nanfu Wang is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker based in New York City. Wang’s feature debut, Hooligan Sparrow, was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Since its premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, it has won over 20 awards internationally including a Peabody Award, a Cinema Eye Honor award, the George Polk Award, an IDA Award, and an Independent Spirit Award. Her second feature documentary, I Am Another You, premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2017 where it won two special jury awards, opened theatrically in September 2017, and premiered on Independent Lens in 2018. 

Jialing Zhang

Jialing Zhang is an independent filmmaker based in Beijing and Massachusetts. She is co-director and editor of Complicit, a feature documentary that follows the journey of a benzene-poisoned Chinese migrant worker who takes on the global electronic manufacturing industry. The film premiered at Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London in March 2017. Zhang also freelances as a local producer for various programs and media outlets including Vice on HBO, Fusion TV, The New York Times, and independent documentary projects.

Full Credits


  • Primetime Emmy Award

    Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking (Nominee)

  • International Documentary Association

    Best Feature (Nominee)

  • Producers Guild of America

    Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Pictures (Nominee)

  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

    Documentary Feature (Shortlist)

  • Peabody Awards

    George Foster Peabody Awards - Documentary (Nominee)

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

Were you familiar with the one-child policy debate in China before, and how did this film change your understanding of it, if it did? What are some takeaways from the story of the one-child policy's aftermath that you think can apply to the United States? Have you ever had to confront your family about an uncomfortable topic?