What It Was Like To Grow Up Without Siblings Under China's 'One-Child' Policy

China one childREUTERS/Carlos BarriaMa Chenxi, who was born in 2011, poses for a photograph in Shanghai August 22, 2014. Chenxi did not say if he would like to have siblings.

In 1979, after steady population increase and declining infant mortality rates under Mao Zedong, the ruling Communist Party in China instituted a “one-child” policy on young families in the country. While the legislation allowed for some exceptions, the regulation was quite effective, greatly reducing China’s birthrates.

35 years later, as older generations retire, China might not have enough citizens to meet its growing workforce demand. Experts now say the China is in dire need of a baby boom, and the country has been relaxing the policy as of late.

Reuters photographer Carlos Barria was born in 1979, the same year the rules was put in place in China. Though Barria is a native of Argentina, he recently traveled to Shanghai to document the effects of China’s “one-child” policy on the children who were born under it. He photographed one person born in each year the policy has been in place, and ask them about their desire for siblings.

“This topic has been photographed for many, many years… I was trying to look for a different way to photograph it,” Barria says in a recent Reuters video.

He found differing answers from different generations. Some of his subjects were worried about sharing things like parent’s affections or money for college. Others felt lonely and thought it would be beneficial to grow up with a brother or sister.

“It gave me the opportunity to see a whole generation of Chinese, from zero to 35-years-old and see their frustrations and expectations and dreams for the future,” Barria says.

(Captions by Carlos Barria and edited by Christian Storm)

Jin Yanxi, who was born in 2014, poses for a photograph in Shanghai September 4, 2014. China, the world's most populous country with nearly 1.4 billion people, says the one-child policy has averted 400 million births since 1980, saving scarce food resources and helping to pull families out of poverty.

Huang Aiting, who was born in 2013, sits in his family's home. Aiting did not say if he wanted to have siblings. Couples violating the policy have had to pay a fine, or in some cases have been forced to undergo abortions.

Qin Wuyue, who was born in 2010, poses for a photograph in Shanghai. When asked if he would like to have siblings, Wuyue explains, 'No, they're noisy.'

Liang Xiao was born in 2007. 'I want a little sister because little brothers are naughty,' she says. Late last year, China said it would allow millions of families to have two children, part of a plan to raise fertility rates and ease the financial burden on a rapidly ageing population.

Only child Wang Qi'an was born in 2003. When asked if he would like to have siblings, Qi'an tells Reuters: 'No, because I have investigated all my classmates who have brothers or sisters. None of them perform well in their studies.'

'Yes, because if I had a brother older than me, he could help me do many things, play with me,' Zhang Xiaoying, who was born in 1998, said when asked about having siblings.

Lv Mengmeng, seen here shopping in Shanghaiwas, was born in 1995. When asked about her desire for brothers or sisters, Mengmeng says, 'Maybe brothers, because I think they could protect me.'

Huang Erbin was born in 1992. Erbin tells Reuters: 'No, because of some financial reasons and another problem is I don't want to share my parents' love with other people.'

Shanghai-resident Zhang Haoran, who was born in 1990, comments, 'Actually, it would be a good thing to have brothers or sisters who are of similar age. Then, some problems that arise in our adulthood might be solved (more easily). For example, communication with peers, and also learning sharing, individualism.'

Chen Xuejun, who was born in 1987, says: 'I want to have an older brother. We could play together and he would protect me.'

Lu Da, who was born in 1986, poses for a photograph in Shanghai. 'If there is a chance I'd like to have brothers and sisters. On the one hand, during my growth it is a good thing to have a brother or a sister who is a similar age. For many things I could discuss with him or her. On the other hand when my parents get older I need to take the responsibility of taking care of them. If there are brothers or sisters at home things will be much easier,' he confides.

Liu Yun was born in 1984. 'I'm a single child. I don't want to have any brothers or sisters. I have cousins, I would say we love each other and we have very good connections. So I never feel I need a brother or a sister,' she says.

'I longed to have a brother to protect me, because I'm alone,' explains Xu Yufang, who was born in 1982.

Zhou Yu, born in 1981, says she wished she 'could have one brother because I am the only child in my family and while I do have lots of cousins, I'm the oldest one. So sometimes I wish I had an older brother to take care of me. Growing up, I think I missed having male role models.'

Cai Hua, who was born in 1979, and lives in Shanghai, says, 'I wish I had a sister. I prefer to have a sister rather than a brother. I have a lot of friends who have a brother and they usually fight with each other. I think it would be very funny but I would prefer to have a sister.'

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