In conversation: Mei Fong, 'One Child'

August 01 2017

On August 1 the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winner Mei Fong to discuss her book, One Child, with former chief political correspondent for SBS Television, Catherine McGrath.

Mei Fong spoke about her career as a journalist, from working as a reporter for Singapore tabloid The New Paper to becoming a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, and how her experience as a journalist in China shaped her understanding of the one child policy’s far-reaching consequences. She also explored the professional and personal inspiration behind her book One Child including her reporting on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and her own fertility treatment in China.

Mei discussed the history, enforcement and lasting effects of the one child policy, including its contribution to China’s gender imbalance and ageing population, as well as its global implications such as trafficking and the international adoption industry.

The audience also shared some of their personal experiences of the policy, its effects on their lives and those of their families and friends. 

View the full event photo gallery here.

Listen to the audio of the discussion here.


Related links:

'China's one child policy - with Mei Fong', The ACRI Podcast, August 1 2017. Subscribe to the ACRI Podcast on iTunes.

'One Child: Life, Love and Parenthood in Modern China', ABC Radio National Breakfast, August 1 2017.

'Too male, too old, too few - the impact of China's one-child policy', UTS Newsroom, August 3 2017.


One Child

For over three decades, China exercised unprecedented control over the reproductive habits of its billion citizens. Now, with its economy faltering just as it seemed poised to become the largest in the world, the Chinese government has brought an end to its one-child policy. It may once have seemed a shortcut to riches, but it has had a profound effect on society in modern China. Combining personal portraits of families affected by the policy with a nuanced account of China’s descent towards economic and societal turmoil, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mei Fong reveals the true cost of this most controversial of policies.


About the speakers:

Mei Fong

Mei Fong is an author and journalist who owes the start of her writing career to the Queen of England. As a 16-year-old, the Malaysian-born Fong won an essay competition that garnered her an invitation to meet Queen Elizabeth II, in town for a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. Emboldened by the meeting—'nothing so exciting had ever happened in my dull life until then,'— Fong resolved to become a journalist and writer.

After graduating from the National University of Singapore she started her journalism career as a reporter at The New Paper, writing stories on local crime, forest fires in Indonesia and gang warfare in Macau. In 1999 she moved to New York for graduate studies at Columbia University with a scholarship from Singapore’s Lee Foundation, graduating with a Masters in International Affairs. While a summer intern at Forbes, she created its Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list ('Sales from the Crypt') which is still published every year by the business magazine.

She joined The Wall Street Journal in 2001, covering the aftermath and recovery of New York city after the 9-11 attacks. Later, she covered Hong Kong and China, where she won a shared Pulitzer for her stories on China’s transformative process ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is believed to be the first Malaysian to win a Pulitzer.

Her stories on China’s migrant workers also won a 2006 Human Rights Press Award from Amnesty International and the Hong Kong Correspondents Club, as well as awards from the Society of Publishers in Asia and Society of Professional Journalists. After leaving the China bureau, she was on faculty at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications. She is currently a fellow at think tank New America.

She is married to journalism professor Andrew Lih. They have two sons and live in greater Washington DC.

Catherine McGrath

Catherine McGrath is one of Australia’s most experience journalists in the areas of politics and international affairs.

For three decades she has shared her insights with audiences via SBS and the ABC platforms. Most recently Catherine was bureau chief of SBS’s federal political bureau in Canberra and earlier was ABC Chief Political Correspondent, Asia Editor and Diplomatic Editor. As a foreign correspondent Catherine was South East Asia Correspondent for the ABC.

Catherine left journalism in 2016 to start the media consultancy Catherine McGrath Media. She is an in demand public speaker, facilitator and media trainer.

Event Gallery


Event Information
August 01 2017
Turbine Hall, Powerhouse Museum
500 Harris Street
Ultimo NSW 2007