Early in 1979, I and several other young nurses from my ward were summoned to a mass meeting. All sixty-odd of us were young married women who had not yet been sterilized. Secretary Wang arrived and took up a position in front of the assembly. His round little face, normally the picture of conviviality, was set in an expression of the utmost gravity. 'Today we have a matter of extreme urgency,' he began, 'a toudeng dashi, to discuss. It concerns the population of the motherland. The People's Republic of China has within its borders nearly a billion people, or one-fifth of the world's population. This is a big burden for the people's government. ... Having children is not a question that we can afford to let each family, each household, decide for itself. ... It is a question that should be decided at the national level. China is a socialist country. This means that the interests of the individual must be subordinated to the interests of the state. Where there is conflict between the interests of the state in reducing population and the interests of the individual in having children, it must be resolved in favor of the state.'