China ends one-child policy

Chinese children playing. Image: Joan Vila

Chinese children playing. Image: Joan Vila

China’s Communist Party has announced the end to its infamous one-child policy. At the end of October, China’s leaders declared that the 35-year policy has finally been extended from the public being able to have one child, to two. This received an unsurprisingly joyous response to an inherently unpopular idea. This population-limiting legislation is however only under transformation due to a demographic crisis. China now has many pensioners, but lacks labour. They needs an influx of workers in order to boost economic growth and stave off an accelerated collapse.
The one-child policy enacted on the 25th September 1980 was initiated to curb over-population,  as China was fast approaching a population of one billion. The believed starting point of this ‘one-child policy’ in China was a public letter. The letter, published by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, called on the Communist Party membership to lead the way in limiting population growth to one child per couple.

Forced abortion became the norm for citizens who no longer adhered to the policy.

Initially, the only measures in place to enforce this policy were financial incentive and employment opportunities for those who complied. Contraceptives were made widely available and those who had another child were fined. Soon however, the government executed a more brutal level of implementation.
Forced abortion became the norm for citizens who no longer adhered to the policy. Women were forced to receive injections into their abdomen and then give birth to a stillborn child. Worse, regional authorities seemed to be a law unto themselves in this matter, forcing abortions even in regions that didn’t exercise the policy. For repeat offenders, the punishment was sterilisation.
However, this isn’t the first time the policy has been changed. Such alterations include the exclusion of ethnic minorities from adhering to the rules. Furthermore, in 1984, in rural areas of China, if a couple’s first child was a girl they were allowed to have a second. And even more recently, in 2013, China allowed couples to have a second child if one of a couple was an only child themselves. While flexibility had clearly been signalled, a change of this scale had not.

Betrothing oneself to another is more a matter of investment in China because of the lack of brides

Additionally, there are anticipated, massive social implications entailed with this legislation change. Often named ‘little emperors’ – the one-child policy generation have grown up in a country with a very high male to female ratio. Couples would abort girls because of the male-dominated society in China. This has made marriage a complicated and highly costly problem. Betrothing oneself to another is more a matter of investment in China because of the lack of brides. Psychologically, the pressure on the only children in China is heavy too. Brought up in a home where they are the only continuation of their family line, only children have high expectations of success placed upon them.

without any effort to curb population growth China would have swathes of people that they could not clothe, feed or house.

While the policy is controversial, the issue of population growth cannot be ignored. Although China undeniably committed a multitude of atrocities to reach their ideal, without any effort to curb population growth China would have swathes of people that they could not clothe, feed or house.

The government wants a baby boom to support its unbalanced, aging population. The fear is that due to the socially accepted norm of having one child, this will simply not materialise. China’s demographic time bomb isn’t likely to be defused any time soon.

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