In China, there are more than 1.3 billion people living, working and building families. Many Westerners imagine that traditional Chinese families are made up of multiple generations living under one roof. Until a century ago, this was a fairly accurate family portrait. But it's no longer the norm.
These days, a typical Chinese family includes a married man and woman with one child, referred to as a core family. While there are sometimes modifications, including one or both sets of grandparents living with the family, the percentage of core families continues to rise above other types. This rise is no coincidence -- it's a direct reflection of the Chinese government's population control policies.
The National Population and Family Planning Commission of China (NPFPC) is a state agency responsible for overseeing population control, reproductive health and family planning across China's provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. In this regard, the agency crafts policy and legislation, organizes and coordinates publicity and education, and directs and supervises reproductive science and technologies. The NPFPC limits the number of children Chinese couples may have, commonly known as the one-child policy.
This policy has been in the news recently, after a deadly 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Sichuan province in May 2008, killing an estimated 10,000 children and leaving thousands more severely injured, disabled or orphaned [source: New York Times]. Because of China's population control policies, most grieving families lost their only child. While the NPFPC is making policy exceptions for devastated families by allowing them to apply to have another child legally, such exceptions are rare.
Why would a country adopt such a policy? Let's look at the one-child policy's creation, its parameters and the criticisms against it.