Postcards from China Blog #13: A New Perspective On Policy and Culture – Asbury University
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Postcards from China Blog #13: A New Perspective On Policy and Culture

December 21, 2018

by Grace Carlson (visiting student from Wheaton College)

Did you know — students from other colleges and universities are invited to apply for Asbury University’s study abroad programs? Learn more.


The very beginning of the Carlson family was captured on a state-of-the-art Sony camcorder in an inconsequential ballroom. On Nov. 21, a little girl’s world was rocked forever. In the course of one cool afternoon, a little girl named Han DongJian was given a new identity, a new family and a new culture. As feet and thumbprints were inked and stamped, the agreement to transfer this quiet and tired little girl into the hands of two anxious Americans was complete.

Growing up, like many adoptees, I’ve had many questions about the circumstances of my birth and my relocation to a quiet Chicago suburb. Why was I here? My parents did their best to explain that my birth parents wanted to give me my best chance at life. To do so, they had to give me up. Where were they? Even though Americans have no limitations on children, I never had other siblings and still grew up an only child. Did I have Chinese siblings somewhere? Growing up, my parents wanted me to know as much as I wanted about China. However, I wasn’t too interested in the policy that led to my Caucasian family. What I did know is that parents relied on male heirs to provide for them in their aging years making the females “less valuable.” Was it my fault?

As I tried to make sense of my identity, these questions continued to drift in and out of my subconscious. Over the years I had watched as other Chinese adopted girls throw off the ties they had to their Chinese identity. Would I do the same? The choice was mine: to resent China and my parents for abandoning me or to try to understand and forgive.

During my time with Asbury University’s China Study Abroad semester, I have been beyond blessed to encounter Chinese culture, history and language. As we walk over miles of China, I’ve seen countless families with a little girl. Every time, I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been given up. The possibilities are infinite.

With the freedom to choose my final research topic, I took my chance to dive into the history of the one child policy. Throughout my research, I have continuously been surprised by the complexity surrounding it. While there is a lot of literature on the overwhelming abandonment of healthy girls, there is certainly more to the story than the simple narrative of “boys are better.”

I’m so excited to learn more about the one child policy and I am so grateful for the opportunity to live in and learn about China at the same time. Living within a small cohort of other students has given us a community to share, learn and grow together, both spiritually and academically.

If given the opportunity to try to find my parents, would I try? Honestly, I’m not sure. The likelihood of success is so small. However, I’ve decided to give grace and forgive my parents for their choices. I continue to pray for their well-being, and maybe someday, I’ll be able to see them again. I have a blessed life as a Carlson that I wouldn’t trade for the world.