China Loosens Its One-Child Policy

The shift may be too late to offset the damage already done to China's economy and society

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Carlos Barria / Reuters

A girl poses for a photograph at a commercial area of downtown Shanghai on Nov. 28, 2012

The Chinese government announced on Nov. 15 that it would loosen its notorious family-planning scheme, commonly known as the one-child policy. The new regulations will allow couples in which at least one parent is an only child to have two offspring. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said the reform was designed to “steadily adjust and improve family-planning policies.”

The reform is part of what the Chinese government earlier this week referred to as “fine-tuning” of its restrictive family-planning policy, which was unveiled in 1979. (Generally speaking, the scheme limited urban families to one child but allowed rural couples to have more than one child in certain cases.) The curtailing of reproductive freedom, its supporters contend, meant that 400 million fewer Chinese were born, allowing for an unprecedented economic boom over the past 30-plus years.

But critics have assailed the policy for both the human-rights abuses it gave rise to — forced abortions and sterilizations, to name just two — as well as its social costs, which are now multiplying. China today faces a dramatic increase in its elderly population, along with too few young people to take care of all these retirees. The nation must also contend with an alarming gender imbalance because some parents have terminated pregnancies of female fetuses in order to ensure a favored boy as their sole child. By some estimates, China will have an extra 25 million young males by 2020.

Many Chinese demographers, even those raised in a socialist system that glorifies social engineering, have been calling for major family-planning reform, arguing that China’s youth population has declined so much in such a short time that the nation will soon face a shortage of the kind of skilled, young workers it needs to power its economy. They argue that as China grew richer, the once high birthrate would have naturally fallen anyway, as has happened in developed nations like Japan or Italy.

Piecemeal reforms to the family-planning scheme have been introduced over the years, such as a provision to allow couples composed of two only children to procreate more fully. (The Nov. 15 announcement is widening the parameters to couples in which only one parent is an only child, not both.) Pilot projects have already been introduced across the nation, allowing for more reproductive liberties in certain localities.

But some demographers say such tweaks are not enough to counter the host of social problems caused by China’s skewed demography. Others speak of the reluctance of the massive family-planning bureaucracy — which employs some 500,000 people and provides income in the form of fines for illegal babies to local governments — to hasten its own extinction. “We don’t need adjustments to the family-planning policy,” says Gu Baochang, a demographer at People’s University in Beijing. “What we need is a phaseout of the whole system.”

24 comments
BingJou
BingJou

"Loosen" is a wrong direction toward economic prosperity.  China is an overpopulated and enormously polluted country.  As her economy grows, the problem of scare land and resources only exacerbate.  More young people simply help keep the wages low.  China should have few young people, better education and less ambitious economic growth to ensure its long term survival.  The pain of fewer as well as older population is unavoidable.  The adverse consequence of more birth is catastrophically detrimental to herself and the environment.

arvay
arvay

They will figure it out.

They have a government that can and does take rational, effective action.

Now that they have created a middle class larger than the entire US population, Chinese parents are deciding to have fewer children on their own.

Step one was necessary for getting to step two.




jfftim
jfftim

Hi Hannah Beeeeeeeeeech....

jefforsythe9
jefforsythe9

What people do not realize about the brutal Chinese Communist Party is that it enjoys exercising its evil will over its brainwashed people. If that unrighteous one child policy was even suggested for Americans, then the guns would come out but Westerners, for some bizarre reason, think it is quite all right for Asians. The cruel CCP has murdered over fifty million of its own people since 1949 . When Mao first took power he said that he wanted to see a wave of red covering China. He did not mean roses. The CCP is continuing its brutality with an attempted genocide of tens of millions of innocent Falun Gong practitioners who live there. This genocide consists of torture, slavery, organ harvesting and murder. This is the truth concerning the CCP.

rshyam7@gmail.com
rshyam7@gmail.com

going against the rule of nature always misfires .this is one glaring example of china where the law restricted to produce only one child  per husband and wife. that after30 years imbalanced the ratio of  required man and woman in the country.that is the reason parents have terminated pregnancies of female fetuses in order to ensure a favored boy as their sole child. By some estimates, China will have an extra 25 million young males by 2020.



btt1943
btt1943

It is high time for China to relax its rigid yet obsolete one-child policy, have two instead. For those who can afford, have three then, but not more.

Cryptokritic
Cryptokritic

The half Japanese Hannah Beech needs to be retroactively aborted.

Her anti-Chinese bias would make Hitler's propaganda minister Goebbels proud.

As a matter of fact, why doesn't Time Magazine hire neo-Nazis to write about Israel and Jews and Armenians to write about Turkey and Turks.  Let's spread the hate around shall we. Its only fair.


Dr_BS_Goh
Dr_BS_Goh

This is not good news for the WORLD. Each two months the global population increases by 24,000,000, India three years ago reported 1,200,000,000 people with 180,000,000 added in the preceding ten years. China then reported 1.34 billion with 74 millions added in the preceding ten years. The difference 180-74 =106m shows the importance of the one child policy. Without the one child China would have another 400,000,000 people on Planet Earth.

People now do not understand what happened in China in the period 1800-1980. About 150,000,000 died of starvation. To understand the terrible sufferings in famines people can watch the recent movie "Back to 1942" when 3,000,000 people died in a famine in Henan. A very very sad scene is Govt troops at the Henan-Shaanxi border who stopped a train carrying refugees, killed many to drive them away from Shaanxi.

In 1800-1980, about another 100,000,000 died from wars and revolutions. The Japanese killed 30,000,000 in 1931-1945.

Song Jian the second most famous rocket scientist in China did the crucial mathematical modelling to justify the one child policy. The starting point is that if Chinese want to live like Americans then China's sustainable population is less than 500,000,000.

Brevspread.com
Brevspread.com

Comparing Japan and Italy to China is a false analogy or too-broad of a statement. I'm disheartened that social engineering has caused so many family member to terminate a child. Perhaps the people should examine the intentions behind the policies again and adjust the culture rather than the family. 

Mehtasaab
Mehtasaab

Then they will need more land. China wants to grab all neighboring countries land. If they will allowed to produce more than one child, then China will have to grabe land from America.

p90
p90

My grandmother is like 90 years old and does just fine on her own. She refuses to let anybody take care of her, especially her kids, and has a fantastic social support group that checks on her daily. I think it's odd that these parents feel like the only way they can be taken care of is either by the government or their children. Why can't they just take care of themselves?

Man1954
Man1954

another bias western view of China.

zaglossus
zaglossus

The bigger problem eventually will be overpopulation.

aztecian
aztecian

they need to put a cork in it.  chinese are not a minority.

smilehughsun
smilehughsun

@rshyam7@gmail.com i can't agree with you. this is mostly because of our tradition-- we want a boy, because only boy is treat as the descedents of a family, not girl. especially in the ancient.

arvay
arvay

@rshyam7@gmail.com

"going against the rule of nature always misfires"

Really? Should we stop vaccinations? Go back to hunter-gatherer societies? The extra men will marry women in and from other nations.


Dr_B_S_Goh
Dr_B_S_Goh

@rshyam7@gmail.com. Please reflect carefully on your statement, "going against the rule of nature always misfires". The most fundamental truth in nature that no species can sustain living beyond the carrying capacity of Nature. Also for your information in the case of Asian carp (a fish) in the Yangtze River, about 95% of the population is male and only 5% are female.