Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Future......

China has tried to end speculation over the future of its controversial one-child policy by saying that it would not be scrapped for at least 10 years. The future of the policy, which the Communist Party claims has reduced the potential population by 400 million since it was introduced 30 years ago, has been the subject of intense debate within the government.
Critics say it is contributing to an imbalance between the sexes as couples selectively abort girl foetuses, and that it is about to lead to demographic disaster as a growing population of the elderly becomes dependent on fewer people of working age. The tendency of some local officials to use brutal methods to enforce the law also leads to poor publicity abroad and increasingly at home. This was followed by both a statement denying that change was imminent, put out by the commission, and a statement that change was being considered, by a senior spokesman for China's advisory parliamentary body, which opened its annual session last week.

Miss Zhao's boss, the minister, Zhang Weiqing, gave an interview to China Daily in an apparent attempt to lay the issue to rest. Any change in the policy would be considered only after the end of the country's next birth peak in 10 years, he said.

Nevertheless it is likely that a gradual change from a "one-child policy" to a more flexible "restrictive" policy will continue. Provinces already have some leeway to set their own rules, while for many people two children is now the legal norm.

How successful has China's One Child Policy been?

China's family planning policy has prevented 400 million births, officials say. Since the regulations were introduced in 1979, China has kept its population in check using persuasion and encouragement. And it looks likely that, nearly 30 years after the policy was first introduced, it will not be relaxed to allow couples to have more children.

"Because China has worked hard over the last 30 years, we have 400 million fewer people," said Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. "

"Compared with the world's other developing countries with large populations, we have realised this transformation half a century ahead of time."

A team of independent Chinese and foreign academics, who this year completed what they say is the first systematic examination of the policy, agree that China has managed to limit its population growth.

"It wouldn't matter what my financial situation was or what the government regulations were, I'd still only want one child " - Zhao Hui, mother

China's population growth rate has reduced to 0.6, second lowest in the world - this shows that so far the policy is working. The fall in fertility rates is also, at least partly, due to improving social and economic circumstances. In other East Asian countries, such as Thailand and South Korea, modernisation has led to women having fewer children, and yet these countries do not have strict family planning policies.

But Professor Wang does admit that China's family planning policies since 1979 have helped reduce the fertility rate further and contributed to a change in attitudes.
"A lot of people simply don't want that many children. People have accepted the policy," he says.
This is particularly true in urban areas, where most couples say they are happy with just one child.

Rural vs Urban

China's One-Child Policy has been in place since the 1970s in an attempt to curb population growth. Chinese officials estimate their land can only support a 1% growth rate each year, and have it made it mandatory for families to only have one child. This is strictly enforced in the major cities, but rural governments tend to be more relaxed since extra labor is needed in farming communities.

City dwellers usually have only one child per couple, whereas people who live in rural areas often have 2 or more babies. Urban dwellers are also economically better off: with incomes averaging three times greater than rural dwellers, urban children are raised in more favorable economic conditions than rural children. Some have also argued that, because of this, the only-children in urban families end up being spoiled, while the rural children often lack the necessary resources to be well fed and educated. It sometimes leads to the enlarging gap between the rich and poor. This is because the wealthy have only one baby with thrice the revenue of the poor, who may have two or more babies with 1/3 of the revenue of the rich. For these reasons, the policy was resisted in rural communities. In the face of such resistance, the policy would have required more drastic measures than the Chinese government was willing to use.

Little Emperor Syndrome

The Chinese have a special name for those tots: xiao huangdi, or "little emperors." They are regularly deplored in the state-run press. China's children are growing up "self-centered, narrow-minded, and incapable of accepting criticism," declared Yang Xiaosheng, editor of a prominent literary journal, in a recent interview in the Beijing Star Daily. Wang Ying, the director of Qiyi's kindergarten, concurs: "Kids these days are spoiled rotten. They have no social skills. They expect instant gratification. They're attended to hand and foot by adults so protective that if the child as much as stumbles, the whole family will curse the ground."
The one-child policy has been loosely enforced in the countryside, where more than two-thirds of China's people live. In remote areas it's not uncommon to find farm families with as many as five or six children. But in cities one child per family remains the norm. Demographers estimate that of Chinese under age 25, at least 20%--about 100 million--have been raised in one-child households. That's only a sliver of China's 1.3 billion people. But for foreign companies hoping to capture the hearts and minds of Chinese consumers, little emperors are a crucial market vanguard. They're confident, cosmopolitan, and eager to try new things. And unlike their rural cousins, they have the financial wherewithal to gratify their whims. An April survey by Hill & Knowlton and Seventeen magazine of 1,200 students at 64 universities in Beijing and Shanghai found that six in ten reported spending more than $60 a month on "unessential items"--a staggering sum given that monthly per capita income in those cities averages less than $250. Many analysts predict that as their purchasing power increases, China's little emperors will emerge as a driving force of lifestyle and market trends beyond China--not only in Asia but in the U.S. and Europe as well. Says Conrad Persons, a consumer-trends analyst at Ogilvy & Mather: "Get ready for the biggest Me Generation the world has ever seen."
The key to understanding this generation is to recognize that it is a breed apart. Everything is different for these kids; the sibling dearth is just the start. China's little emperors and empresses have come of age in an era of unprecedented prosperity. Their parents and grandparents endured years of famine under Mao's disastrous communal agriculture policies and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. They remember the trauma of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. But for the Chinese born since 1980, that's ancient history. For youngsters in Beijing and Shanghai--and even second-tier cities such as Dalian, Chengdu, or Kunming--each passing week brings a gleaming new shopping complex, restaurant, highway, or residential development

Civil Rights

China's birth control policy, known widely as the one-child policy, was implemented in 1979 by the Chinese government to alleviate the overpopulation problem. Having more than one child is illegal and punishable by fines and jail time. Voice of America cites critics who argue that it contributes to forced abortions, human rights violations, female infanticide, abandonment and sex-selective abortions believed to be relatively commonplace in some areas of the country. This is thought to have been a significant contribution to the gender imbalance in mainland China, where there is a 118 to 100 ratio of male to female children reported. Forced abortions and sterilizations have also been reported.
It is also argued that the one-child policy is not effective enough to justify its costs, and that the dramatic decrease in Chinese fertility started before the program began in 1979 for unrelated factors. The policy seems to have had little impact on rural areas (home to about 80% of the population), where birth rates never dropped below 2.5 children per female. Nevertheless, the Chinese government and others estimate that at least 250 million births have been prevented by the policy.
In 2002, the laws related to the One-child policy were amended to allow ethnic minorities and Chinese living in rural areas to have more than one child. The policy was generally not enforced in those areas of the country even before this. The policy has been relaxed in urban areas to allow people who were single children to have two children.

Gender Imbalance

With more than 1.3 billion people, China is the world's most populous country. But population growth has slowed in recent years as a result of the one-child policy, in effect since 1979.Chinese couples traditionally prefer boys who, unlike girls, can carry on the family name and will look after them in their old age. Abortions of female fetuses are believed to be widespread, especially in rural areas. The Chinese government has reported that an already largely male population will increasingly outnumber women for years to come.

For centuries, Chinese families without sons feared poverty and neglect. The male offspring represented continuity of lineage and protection in old age.The traditional thinking is best described in the ancient

"Book of Songs" (1000-700 B.C.):

"When a son is born,
Let him sleep on the bed,
Clothe him with fine clothes,
And give him jade to play...
When a daughter is born,
Let her sleep on the ground,
Wrap her in common wrappings,
And give broken tiles to play..."

After the Communists took power in 1949, Mao Zedong rejected traditional Malthusian arguments that population growth would eventually outrun food supply, and firmly regarded China's huge population as an asset, then with an annual birth rate of 3.7 percent. Without a state-mandated birth control program, China's sex ratio in the 60's and 70's remained normal.Then in the early '80s, China began enforcing an ambitious demographic engineering policy to limit families to one-child, as part of its strategy to fast-track economic modernization. The policy resulted in a slashed annual birth rate of 1.29 percent by 2002, or the prevention of some 300 million births, and the current population of close to 1.3 billion.

‘We still have a lot of work to do. There's no road map yet on how to achieve the goal of normal sex ratio.’ - Dr. Gu Baochang, Population control expert

Monday, 19 January 2009

Mechanisms of the One Child Policy

There can be exceptions to the “one-child” policy; some families have had up to three children without a punishment. Families whose first child is unable to work, pregnancy that occurs after couples decided to adopt, and those returning overseas are allowed to have a second child.


  • Children born outside of China are legal if they do not obtain citizenship.

  • In most rural areas, families are allowed to have another child if the first child is female or disabled, this is because the population in these areas are normally lower, but the second child is subject to birth spacing of 3 or 4 years.

  • Twins and triplets have no restrictions on them, so many women abuse this right and deliberately take fertility drugs.

  • 'Han-Chinese', the ethnic group totaling 10% of China's population, is subject to different rights and can be allowed 3 or 4 children in rural areas.

  • Where a family is located has a bearing on how many children they are allowed. This 'One Child Policy' is usually only implemented in urban areas. Families living in rural areas are allowed more than one child. Also usually about 3 or 4 years afterwards.

  • There are a total of 56 minority tribes, including the Uygher, Naxi, Hui tribes. All of these tribes are excluded from the policy.

  • In some areas of China, the rule is that if the first child is female or disabled the family is allowed to have another child.