A gripping New York Times story by Sharon LeFraniere this morning details how corrupt local authorities in rural China literally snatched babies from their parents; the babies were then sold to Chinese and perhaps also American families looking to adopt.
Yuan Xinquan was caught by surprise one December morning in 2005. Then a new father at the age of 19, Mr. Yuan was holding his 52-day-old daughter at a bus stop when a half-dozen men sprang from a white government van and demanded his marriage certificate.He did not have one. Both he and his daughter’s mother were below the legal age for marriage.Nor did he have 6,000 renminbi, then about $745, to pay the fine he said they demanded if he wanted to keep his child. He was left with a plastic bag holding her baby clothes and some powdered formula.
This incident is not typical and the practice, never common, appears to be fading, but stories like this illustrate just what kinds of challenges China must overcome. Governing a country of this size with huge gaps between rich and poor, rural and urban is hard. Doing it when tens of millions of families are still brutalized and scarred by a century of famine, repression, invasion and civil war is even harder.The Mead forecast stands: the road ahead is bumpy, and China’s internal difficulties and struggles will spill over into foreign policy. The 21st century will not be a holiday from history.