The Lost Babies Of China's One-Child Policy Thirty years after it was introduced the Chinese government claims the one-child policy has successfully reined in the country's population, but it has also led to the disappearance of millions of baby girls. The town of Wuxue in southern China looks normal enough. Pedicabs ply its narrow streets; hawkers sell steaming bowls of rice noodles to passersby. But in Wuxue's primary school something is amiss. In one Spartan classroom of white washed walls and wooden desks a group of seven-year-olds learn to pipe on the bamboo Chinese flute. Of 40 students just nine are girls. Next door, another class practice their calligraphy, copying down hieroglyphs in neat rows. Once again, most of the children grappling with their pencils are boys. The little girls of Wuxue are not being denied an education. Rather, they simply don't exist. According to official statistics, for every 100 girls there are 197 boys. It is the worst example of gender imbalance in China, but a similar pattern exists across the country. The cause is an unintended result of the one-child policy: sex selective abortions. The Chinese government says that three decades of state-controlled family planning has prevented 400 million births, a feat achieved with the threat of heavy fines for extra births and the provision of free contraception. Abortion - which is largely free of stigma in China - is also encouraged to terminate excess pregnancies. But a traditional preference for male children and the increasing availability of ultrasound technology have intersected. The result: the widespread use of abortion to guarantee a baby boy, throwing the country's demographics off balance. By 2020 it is thought there will be 50 million men who cannot find a wife. In a culture where marriage and reproduction are considered the highest moral duties the result is a social time bomb. Kidnapping of women as brides is already common in China's countryside. In one case last year in the northern province of Shanxi, 25 women were rescued from a village where they had been sold for Â£3,000 a head to men who could not find wives. Experts predict that kidnappings will rise as further generations of boys grow up to find a shortage of women. To try to even up the numbers, he government has banned pre-natal sex testing. But the regulation is ignored by many hospitals for which ultrasounds are a lucrative business. In Wuxue, parents gathered at the school gate seemed loth to admit that there was a preponderance of boys. Most denied a preference for male children. Only one old man picking up his granddaughter said that he wanted to speak the truth. He said: "We can only have one child, so when people fall pregnant they go to the hospital for an ultrasound and if it's a girl they get rid of it. That's why you can see so many boys here." As the one-child policy enters its fourth decade that male majority will likely continue to grow, fuelled by a strange combination of state-enforced family planning, new technology, and age-old prejudices.