A Look into China’s One-Child Policy

I’ve been a bit lax over the Summer and haven’t been as dedicated as I should have at updating here! I’ve knuckled down and trying to do some research for my extended project on China’s One-Child Policy. So I thought I might do a bit of a summary up here for some general info on the policy combined.

I got inspired to write my project on China as I worked as an intern at a culture festival at my school. I was particularly moved by the speaker, the Chinese journalist, Xinran. She talked about the social impacts of the one-child policy and has set up a charity dedicated to improving communication and understanding between adoptive parents and their children.

Following her talk, I delved into more research about the policy and decided to look into both the social and demographic impacts as those two factors are often interlinked.

So what have been my findings?

The policy was not welcomed by Chairman Mao and only came into effect in 1979 after Chairman Mao had passed in 1976. Mao wanted a large work force, supporting the idea of ‘one mouth comes with two hands.’ However, towards the end of his life his ideas changed taking into account the problem of demand outstripping resource. He then began pushing towards having fewer children ‘one is good, two is okay, three is too many.’ He also argued towards ‘later, longer, fewer’ waiting later for marriage, waiting longer for having children and having fewer children.

The policy initially allowed parents of a girl to try for another child in hopes of having a boy, however, if the second child was another girl, they were barred from trying again. Today the policy is stricter, however, the enforcement of it varies from province to province with a general trend of stricter standards in urban areas due to population density.

The policy has created many demographic problems, most notably, an accelerated ageing population. The ratio of working age people to retirees is rapidly on the increase with roughly 67 working age people to every 100 retired. The policy has created what is known as the ‘4.2.1’ phenomena. Now one child is having to support two parents, and with the case of girls who traditionally live with a husband who supports his parents, this makes the situation tougher.

Besides an ageing population, the policy has also invariably caused an increase in female infanticide and a gender skew with an ill-proportioned male-to-female ratio. For every 1 girl in China there are roughly 17 boys. Female infanticide has always existed in China and much of the East, however, with the introduction of the policy its prominence has increased.

Other social impacts have been brought about by the planning officials themselves as opportunists who see foreign adoption as a method of making profit off couples who break the policy. There have been cases of babies being snatched from their parent’s arms by planning officials to take to orphanages for profit. Villagers are often ill educated and told that the officials have the right and are often forced to sign documents to give over their children either without them knowing or against their own will.

The policy has, however, solved China’s population growth issue. It is now growing at a rate of roughly 0.6% a year with the average woman having 1.75 children. This has allowed for more rapid socioeconomic development than before and better provision for people, especially those who follow the policy and receive multiple benefits such as free healthcare, education and financial incentives for just having one child.

However, whether or not the economic value of having one child can really be outweighed by the many social repercussions of the policy is hotly debated. On the one hand, population had to be controlled, however, in such a way as the policy is a questionable one.

Charlotte Tidman


One thought on “A Look into China’s One-Child Policy

  1. Interestingly the one child policy is almost certainly going to have to be relaxed to cope with an aging population.

    One of the most concerning aspects of the policy is the impact of the national psyche of female Chinese citizens who almost as a generation have developed extreme narcissitic personality disorders because of it.

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