What is China's one-child policy?


Controversy and Criticism of the One-child Policy
China may face problems as a smaller workforce made of singleton children is forced to support a large, aging population.
China may face problems as a smaller workforce made of singleton children is forced to support a large, aging population.
Frederick J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Over the decades, China has come under fire regarding its population control policies and methods of enforcement, and has been accused of human and reproductive rights issues, female infanticide and unsafe practices. It's suggested that China's family planning policies force or coerce women into having abortions and sterilizations through social, economic and psychological pressures, discriminate against women and encroach on the human right to reproduce.

Additionally, the one-child policy, along with China's traditional preference for male heirs, has contributed to the problem of gender imbalance. In 2010, for example, there were 51 million more men than women in China; that year, 120 boys were born for every 100 girls. By comparison there were just about 96 men for every 100 women in the U.S. [source: Ro, Census Bureau]. Girl infants are abandoned at a high rate. Female infanticide, the act of intentionally killing female infants and fetuses, is an acknowledged problem in China. And in rural parts of the country, infant mortality rates are as much as 27 percent higher for girls than boys, often due to neglect [source: U.S. Department of State]. And because of this bias, the proportion of young single men to single women over the next decade will get problematic -- it's estimated that 35 million men will be forced into a lifetime of bachelorhood [source: Ford].

The abortion rate hovers around 1 out of every 100, which equals more than 13 million abortions annually (a number that only includes those that are performed by licensed health care professionals, which may include abortions that were forced on the patient). In comparison, the reported abortion rate in the U.S. is 1 in 500 [source: Jiang].

Amid controversy of its strict methods and enforcement of rules, China continues to look ahead at ways to improve its population policies. The National Population and Family Planning Commission of China (NPFPC) is planning programs and advances in the quality of both social and reproductive health services. To address the social stigma of having girls and the related gender-ratio imbalance, for example, the NPFPC launched a campaign named "Girl Care" in rural areas. One publicity campaign in Hebei Province, for example, includes billboard advertisements reading, "There's no difference between having a girl or a boy -- girls can also continue the family line." China has also made it illegal to discriminate against women who give birth to baby girls, and has prohibited ultrasounds to determine gender and sex-selective abortions after an ultrasound.

China's demographic decline also has resulted in a rising ratio of elderly to wage-earning adults -- about 194 million Chinese over the age of 60 have no or few children to care for them [source: Yang]. The smaller workforce comprised of singleton children is challenged to support two sets of aging parents; China also lacks adequate pension coverage and social welfare systems, putting young workers under financial pressure as they try to pick up the burden. The new 2013 policy that allows two children to couples where either parent is an only child is expected to create a minor population boost of about 1 to 2 million additional children born per year, helping to both ease the skewed gender ratio and offset the ratio of growing elderly to declining young [source: Chang].

Author's Note: What is China's one-child policy?

There was something about this assignment that made people say the oddest things when I mentioned it to them. Some wondered if I'd end up on a special list, marked by the Chinese government for writing about the one-child rule, as if this policy were a secret. I originally wrote this piece concurrently with an assignment about how thousands of children in China were being named "Olympics" in honor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and the juxtaposition of these two filled my research with the history of the Chinese family and strict population control with scenes and stories of new families celebrating their country as well as creating good luck and a sense of individuality for these infants by giving them a specialized, magical name.

Related Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Baculinao, Eric. "China grapples with legacy of its 'missing girls'." NBC News. Sept. 14, 2004. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5953508/#.UqE59MRDtbw
  • BBC News. "Has China's one-child policy worked?" Sept. 20, 2007. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7000931.stm
  • Bloomberg News. "China's Urban Population Exceeds Countryside for First Time." Jan. 17, 2012. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-17/china-urban-population-exceeds-rural.html
  • Chang, Gordon G. "China's One-Child Change Doesn't Avert Demographic Collapse." Forbes. Nov. 17, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonchang/2013/11/17/chinas-one-child-change-doesnt-avert-demographic-collapse/
  • China Central Television Network (CCTV). "People's Daily separate two-child survey." Nov. 19, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://jingji.cntv.cn/2013/11/19/ARTI1384845828114322.shtml
  • China Daily. "Changes in Chinese Family." Feb. 5 2001. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.china.org.cn/english/7070.htm
  • Central Intelligence Agency. "World Factbook: China." (Dec. 8, 2013) https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html
  • CNN. "China to keep one-child policy." March 10, 2008. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/10/china.onechild/
  • Medical News Today. "China's One-Child Policy To Exempt Parents Whose Children Were Killed During Earthquake." May 29, 2008. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/109064.php
  • Dewey, Arthur. "One-Child Policy in China: Testimony before the House International Relations Committee." U.S. Department of State. Dec. 14, 2004. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://2001-2009.state.gov/g/prm/rls/39823.htm
  • Ford, Peter. "As China's one-child policy fades, new challenges lie ahead." The Christian Science Monitor. Nov. 27, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2013/1127/As-China-s-one-child-policy-fades-new-challenges-lie-ahead
  • Hesketh, Therese; Lu, Li; and Zhu Wei Xing. "The Effect of China's One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years." The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 353:1171-1176. Sept. 15, 2005. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr051833
  • Huiting, Hu. "Family Planning Law and China's Birth Control Situation." China Internet Information Center. Oct. 18, 2002. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.china.org.cn/english/2002/Oct/46138.htm
  • Jacobs, Andrew. "One-Child Policy Lifted for Quake Victims' Parents." The New York Times. May 27, 2008. (Dec. 8, 2 013) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/27/world/asia/27child.html?hp
  • Jiang, Chengcheng. "What Happens When Only 1.2% of Chinese Women Take the Pill: 13 Million Abortions." Time. Sept. 30, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://world.time.com/2013/09/30/what-happens-when-only-1-2-of-chinese-women-take-the-pill-13-million-abortions/
  • Jiang, Zemin. "Population and Family Planning Law of the People's Republic of China (Order of the President No.63)." Orders of the President of the People's Republic of China. Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. Dec. 29, 2001. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://english.gov.cn/laws/2005-10/11/content_75954.htm
  • Jones, Adam. "Case Study: Female Infanticide." Gendercide Watch. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html
  • LaFraniere, Sharon. "As China Ages, Birthrate Policy May Prove Difficult to Reverse." The New York Times. April 6, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/world/asia/07population.html
  • Li, Le. "Despite changes to one-child policy, Chinese parents say having two kids is too expensive." NBCNews.com. Nov. 20, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://behindthewall.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/30/21566045-despite-changes-to-one-child-policy-chinese-parents-say-having-two-kids-is-too-expensive
  • Lee, Kevin. "China's Growing Problem Of Too Many Single Men." Forbes. May 13, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.forbes.com/sites/china/2011/05/13/chinas-growing-problem-of-too-many-single-men/
  • Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. "Population and Family Planning Law of the People's Republic of China." National Population and Family Planning Commission of China. " Feb. 23, 2012. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.npfpc.gov.cn/policies/
  • Li, J.; Temmerman, M.; Chen, Q.; Xu, J.; Hu, L.: and WH Zhang. "A review of contraceptive practices among married and unmarried women in China from 1982 to 2010." The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care. Vol. 18, no. 3. Pages 148-158. April 2, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23544865
  • National Population and Family Planning Commission of China."Gender Equity and Women's Empowerment." Jan. 16, 2006. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.npfpc.gov.cn/international/psummaries/201202/t20120220_381651.html
  • National Population and Family Planning Commission of China. "Main Achievements of Population and Family Planning Program of China." 2006. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.npfpc.gov.cn/about/history/201202/t20120220_381715.html
  • National Population and Family Planning Commission of China. "Progress since the International Conference on Population and Development." Dec. 7, 2006. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.npfpc.gov.cn/about/history/201202/t20120220_381716.html
  • National Population and Family Planning Commission of China. "The Missions of The National Population and Family Planning Commission." Sept. 7, 2005. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.npfpc.gov.cn/about/history/201202/t20120220_381714.html
  • Olesen, Alexa. "China Sticking to One-Child Policy." The Washington Post. Jan, 23, 2007. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/23/AR2007012300398.html
  • Reuters. "Chinese director Zhang Yimou apologises for violating one-child policy." Dec. 1, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/02/us-china-onechild-idUSBRE9AT01F20131202
  • Ro, Sam. "Here's The China Demographics Chart That Actually Scares Us." Business Insider. Nov. 15, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.businessinsider.com/country-rankings-of-sex-ratio-at-birth-2013-11
  • Simpson, Peter. "China's urban population exceeds rural for first time ever." The Telegraph. Jan. 17, 2012. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9020486/Chinas-urban-population-exceeds-rural-for-first-time-ever.html
  • U.S. Census Bureau. "2010 Census Shows Nation's Population is Aging." May 26, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.census.gov/2010census/news/releases/operations/cb11-cn147.html
  • U.S. Department of State. "2010 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau). April 8, 2011. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eap/154382.htm
  • World Economic Forum: Global Agenda Council on Women's Empowerment 2011-2012. "Five Challenges, One Solution: Women." 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GAC_WomensEmpowerment_FiveChallangesOneSolution_Compendium_2013.pdf
  • Yang, Sunny. "China easing one-child policy amid elderly boom." USA Today. Nov. 15, 2013. (Dec. 8, 2013) http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/11/15/china-one-child-policy/3570593/

More to Explore