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China's Lost Girls

National Geographic host Lisa Ling travels to China to join American families as they greet their new Chinese daughters and she examines the complex issues surrounding the country’s one-child policy. Airs June 26, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Lisa Ling talks to two Chinese boys. Join  as Ling investigates the complex issues surrounding the one-child policy.
Lisa Ling talks to two Chinese boys. Join as Ling investigates the complex issues surrounding the one-child policy.Mark Leong / Redux @ NGT&F

In “China’s Lost Girls,” National Geographic Ultimate Explorer host Lisa Ling examines the consequences of China’s two-decade-old, one-child policy, as it is commonly called. To curb the country’s exploding population, China limits most families to one child, or in certain circumstances, two children. Due to cultural, social and economic factors, traditional preference leans toward boys, so girls are often hidden, aborted or abandoned. As a result, tens of thousands of girls end up in orphanages across China.

Today, more than one quarter of all babies adopted from abroad by American families come from China — and nearly all are girls. Ling joins some of these families as they travel to China to meet their new daughters for the first time. Along this emotional journey, she shares in the joy of these growing families and also witnesses firsthand China’s gender gap, its roots and its possible repercussions. Village elders express their preference for boys, and women describe the pressures leading to the abandonment of girls. One woman confides the immense pressure her husband put on her to have a son and tells of the fine she paid to keep her daughter. She also confesses how another family member came to the agonizing decision to abandon her own daughter.

Ling soon learns that there may be other, less obvious prices to pay for China’s population changes. Classrooms appear disproportionately filled with male students. Experts predict that in several decades, China will have as many as 40 million young men of marrying age with no women to marry. What will become of this massive class of bachelors? And what may be in store for China’s girls? Ling meets a woman who shares her ordeal of being kidnapped and sold as a wife to a man across China. This kind of crime will increase, experts warn, as China’s gender gap worsens. Another emerging social problem is that many children, especially boys, have been pampered since birth and are becoming spoiled. Known as “little emperors,” many of these coddled children are battling expanding waistlines.

Join Ultimate Explorer as Ling explores the many complex issues surrounding China’s attempt to slow its swelling tide of humanity.