Of Population Projections and Projectiles
- September 23, 2010
- A book by Susan Greenhalgh, anthropology professor, is featured in Science magazine September 17, 2010
China's one-child policy may appear to be a case of ideology trumping science. But the policy was based on the projections of a 1970s missile scientist and adopted in an atmosphere of renewed faith in empiricism and openness to the West. A key figure in the policy's adoption was Song Jian, a Soviet-trained military scientist and specialist in cybernetics, or the control of machine systems. A former People's Liberation Army soldier, Song was a protégé of Qian Xuesen, Mao Zedong's trusted science adviser. Qian's backing helped Song rise to an influential post in China's Ministry of National Defense. From his perch in the Seventh Ministry of Machine Building, a missile laboratory, Song moved into the unlikely field of population analysis—in part because other Chinese scientists had been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. Sociology and demography were "essentially demolished under Mao," explains Susan Greenhalgh, an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, who outlines Song's story in the book Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng's China. But "most defense scientists were able to continue working."
For the full story, please visit http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;329/5998/1460.