Down from the Mountains

Fourteen-year-old Wang Ying wants to study, play, and to be a child. But when not in school, she must take care of her younger brother and sister and do the chores and farmwork while also trying to keep up at school. The siblings are from the Yi ethnic group who reside in the remote mountains of southwestern China. Their parents, who are illiterate and speak no Mandarin Chinese, work in a factory over 1,000 miles away to earn money to give the children a better future.

The movement of economic migrants from the Chinese countryside to wealthier, urban areas has left around 9 million rural children like them alone or in the care of relatives, a survey has found. Experts say such children are more likely to develop behavioural problems or drop out of school. 

A documentary project follows the family in their two different worlds, and examines the dilemma faced by many rural parents who must choose between providing for their children economically or emotionally. It also highlights the challenges faced by some of China’s poorest and most marginalised people trying to keep apace with the country’s rapid development. 

Millions of Chinese Kids Are Parenting Themselves

A short version of the documentary Down from the Mountains, which focuses on three children left behind by migrant parents in the mountains of southwest China, is featured on The Atlantic Selects.

Left Behind in Rural China

A report for PBS NewsHour shows the challenges faced by three siblings among an estimated 9 million children left in the Chinese countryside by parents working in wealthier cities

Meet the Journalist: Max Duncan

Filmmaker and video journalist Max Duncan introduces his project about a family from a remote corner of China. The parents left their children behind in order to give them a better future.