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And where daughters were given up, among the families Johnson met, it was never casual, but almost always an agonized decision that, in the context of government repression, could hardly be called a choice.

Having an unauthorized, “illegal” child was punished with crippling fines sometimes larger than a family’s annual income.

Local corruption could be a gesture of compassion, as sympathetic officials might warn pregnant women to hide from central government investigators.

Local family planning officials operated under the threat of docked salaries for over-quota births and offered rewards to anonymous tipsters who informed on their neighbors.

In the 1980s, when the one-child policy was new, Johnson writes, rural families subverted family planning enforcement by turning to traditional practices of domestic adoption.

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