Last Updated 27 Mar 2020

Consequences of China’s One Child Policy

Category One Child Policy
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HIST HP 264-002| Consequences of China’s One-Child Policy| | | In the mid 1950’s, China’s population grew rapidly under Mao Zedong. He felt that the only way for China to get back on its feet was to become industrialized and that China would need manpower for this industrialization. “Even if China's population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production," Mao Zedong proclaimed in 1949. "Of all things in the world, people are the most precious. " The population grew so dramatically that the country’s resources were becoming scarce.

In 1979, just three years after Mao’s death, the “One-Child Policy” took effect. This law was implemented by Deng Xiaoping to curb the population growth. The original intent for this policy was economically based. There had been a great famine, in which many people lost their lives, and China wanted to prevent this from happening again. There was not enough suitable farmland to provide food for the entire population nor was there enough water. They wanted to reduce the demand for natural resources, maintain a steady labor rate, and reduce unemployment caused by surplus labor.

China’s justification for this policy was based on their support of the Marxist theory of population growth. This policy has been called the largest population control effort in history. The policy is very controversial mainly due to the way enforcement has been carried out. While the policy itself has achieved its main goal, by preventing over 400 million births from 1979-2010, the long-term consequences for China will be great. The one-child policy has many regulations. China maintains that this a voluntary policy but the enforcement of the policy has proven otherwise.

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I will touch briefly on a few of the most important points of the policy. The policy states that both the husband and wife must both practice birth planning. Birth outside of marriage is not allowed. Couples are permitted to have one child. Late marriage and late births are encouraged. Couples who follow the policy and have only one child will be given a certificate to receive rewards and preferential treatment. Those who refuse to follow the policy and give birth to a second child will be fined from the month that the child is born.

The wages or annual income of both husband and wife will be decreased by ten to twenty percent for seven years. Regarding pregnancy not adherent to the plan, both husband and wife will be imposed a fine monthly during the period of pregnancy. If the pregnancy is terminated, the fine imposed will be returned. China’s system in caring for the elderly after retirement is simple. The eldest son is generally responsible. In earlier days, this was not such a terrible burden. However, with China’s one-child policy, many families find themselves in quite a predicament when their one child is a girl.

A girl is traditionally groomed to be married. When the time comes for her to marry, she leaves her family and becomes a part of her husband’s family. She then becomes responsible for helping her husband care for his aging parents. Thus, her own family will be left without support and care. Even in cases where the family’s only child is a son, the “4-2-1 Problem” is often created. There is an increased burden on the one child to provide for his aging parents and grandparents, in addition to his immediate family. (The 4-2-1 policy refers to 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and 1 child. If personal savings, pensions or state welfare fail and the single child cannot care for the older adult relatives, the older generations would face a lack of resources and necessities. This is just one possible consequence to China’s one-child policy. When mothers become pregnant for the first time, some manage to have an ultrasound to determine the sex of the baby. This is illegal in China but still happen none-the-less. If the parents learn that this first child is a girl, it is sometimes aborted. This is due to China’s preference of boys. There are many reasons that Chinese families prefer boys.

One reason is an old religious link to Confucianism that prefers sons over daughters. Another reason is that a son is believed to be stronger and better able to help the family with farm work. Also, as I stated earlier, a son will support his parents in retirement and take care of them. A daughter would leave her family and become a part of her husband’s family. Sex-selective abortions are leading to a decline in the female population, which will also have long-term consequences as well. In China, boys are considered to be so important culturally, that a family is looked down on if they do not produce a boy.

Therefore, having a boy is a source of great pride for a family. As if they can control their baby’s gender, wives are often threatened to be sent back home to their own families if they cannot produce a boy. When a woman is sent back to her own family, it is considered to be very shameful for both she and her family. Also, she would now be seen as a burden to her own family. They would have another mouth to feed and would have to support her as well. This would create further hardships for her family. Another consequence is the danger associated with enforcing the policy.

In the early years of the policy, there were drastic measures taken to ensure that the policy was enforced. Population control workers were hired to enforce the policy strictly. Forced abortions were common amongst these enforcement procedures. Portable ultrasound devices were used to identify candidates who were carrying second children in remote villages. Some mothers who were eight and a half months pregnant were forced to abort their babies. This was often carried out by injecting a saline solution directly into the mother’s stomach.

If mothers did not go to the clinic willingly to have the abortions, they were dragged there by force. There have even been reports of mothers who were already nine months pregnant, and in labor, having their babies killed while they were still in the birth canal. This not only harms the unborn child but also puts the mother’s health at risk with the possibility of hemorrhaging, infection, or even death. After these forced abortions, these mothers were subjected to forced sterilization as well. This means that if the government ever changes their mind and retracts the policy, these mothers will have no chance of having another child.

Often, a mother becomes pregnant with a second child and manages to keep it a secret from the authorities for fear of forced abortions. If the family is wealthy, they are sometimes allowed to keep the baby if they pay large monetary fines to the government. The amounts of the fines are based on the statistics of the particular area where they are located. They can also have their houses and land taken away as a penalty. They can be denied bonuses at work or may lose their jobs altogether. Parents with more than one child are not given the same benefits as parents of only one child.

They must pay for both children to go to school and pay for the entire family’s healthcare. Most families are not able to pay these fines nor are they able to survive without the significant benefits that are normally provided. This leads to families living in poverty and even death due to starvation or lack of proper healthcare. Another consequence of China’s one-child policy is the rate of female infanticide. Parents often panic when their baby is a girl and either kill the baby themselves or abandon the baby. Babies are abandoned in many ways.

Sometimes they are taken to remote places and left to die. Other times they are left in public places, with or without notes, so that they can be found and taken to an orphanage. If the child is not found immediately, they can often be malnourished or in poor health when arriving at an orphanage. When this is the case, and a baby is beyond help, some Chinese orphanages have what are called “dying rooms”. These rooms are horrific. Babies are strapped to a chair with a hole in the seat that collects the baby’s waste. The babies in these rooms are left there, with no nourishment or care, to die.

In the cases where the babies are abandoned and someone finds them rather quickly, they are taken to an orphanage to be cared for or are sent to a foster family. The lucky children are adopted internationally. Others can spend their whole lives in the orphanage. In China there are around 1,000 orphanages. Only 250 of those will send children out of the country to be adopted. Officially registered adoptions increased from 2,000 in 1992 to 55,000 in 2001. Many more were adopted informally without registration. In 2005, around 7,900 children were adopted into the United States.

In reality, only about 5% of children in Chinese orphanages are adopted at all. Many babies put up for adoption have not been abandoned by their parents but confiscated by family planning officials. The one-child policy has also had a negative effect on the children legally born to couples. Parents tend to over indulge these children. This epidemic has created the name “little emperors” for these children and the condition created is being called “little emperor syndrome”. These children are spoiled. Because there was once a great famine in China, the parents want to give these children what they were deprived of.

They want to ensure that they have plenty to eat and overindulge them. The children have become fat. There is now an initiative in China to stop obesity in children. There are clinics where parents and children are educated about healthy eating and exercise. Some children are even receiving acupuncture to curb their appetites. The fact that children are becoming overweight is not the only problem with the “little emperors”. They also suffer from poor social communication, poor cooperation skills and lack of self-discipline. They often struggle with strong personality disorders.

In March 2007, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) called on the Chinese government to abolish the one-child rule. Ye Tingfang, a sponsor of the proposal, argues that “It is not healthy for children to play only with their parents and be spoiled by them. The one-child limit is too extreme. Children in our country may not even be blessed to have cousins which is a serious handicap to their nature and may lead to personality flaws. It violates nature’s law and in the long run, this will lead to Mother Nature’s revenge. Because of the one-child policy, families who desperately want to have a second child often take on a foster child. This can temporarily fill a void of desire for more children. These families become very attached to the babies that they care for and love them just as if they were their own. When these babies are adopted, the foster parents are devastated and become deeply depressed and are forced to cope with the loss. This emotional strain is equally felt by the birth parents, who were forced to either abandon the baby or surrender it by force, as well as the foster parents who have cared for the infant.

The one-child policy has affected the population significantly. In some areas, there has been a negative population growth. This means that the deaths of a region have outweighed the births. Also, the Chinese population is aging. This is when the median age of a country or region rises. The elders are now becoming greater than the younger generation. This will surely pose a tough strain on the younger generation to care for their older family members with no help from siblings. Another potential problem will arise as the preferred boys reach the age to marry and procreate. There will be a major shortage of women to fulfill the need.

In recent studies, the ratio of men to women is 117:100. It is estimated that in the year 2020, there will be 40 million more men than women. This will have extreme consequences. These consequences include social instability, courtship motivated emigration, and forced marriages. Another tragic consequence is prostitution which can also lead to a rise in human immunodeficiency virus infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. Already there has been a problem with abduction of women. Women are being kidnapped and sold to men in other provinces. They are being raped and treated badly. If they try to scape, they are beaten severely. This are all consequences of the gender imbalance created as a result of China’s one-child policy. There have been a few exceptions made to the policy over the years. In rural areas, parents can apply to have a second child if the first is a girl. Other circumstances that would allow consideration for a second child would be if the first child suffers from a physical disability, mental illness or mental retardation. When this special permission is granted, the parents are subject to birth spacing. This means that the parents must wait a specific amount of time before having the second child.

This time period is generally from three to five years. Exceptions have also been made if both parents are only children. This would relieve the burden of the “4-2-1 problem” on just one child. Special considerations have also been made when the father is a disabled serviceman who will not be able to care for his own aging parents. Official permission is sometimes granted in cases such as the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, where children perished and in other cases where the child is deceased. Finally, there are exceptions made in affirmative action cases such as with Han Chinese who are considered to be minorities.

Although the one child policy seems like an extremely harsh and controversial method of controlling the population, it isn’t as harsh as it may seem at first. It depends on which area of the country you live in as to how much it affects you. In some areas which have a low population, the policy is somewhat lenient, whereas in Sichuan, the policy is strictly adhered to in both rural and urban areas because it is overpopulated. As nearly 50% of China’s population live in the countryside, many are permitted to have two children because for the majority of places, the policy is more strictly enforced in urban areas.

Typically, the power of enforcement is given at the provincial level. In March of 2011, the policy was reviewed by the Chinese government. Some officials expressed the need for consideration to allow couples to have a second child. The government announced that the policy will remain unchanged through at least 2015. China’s one-child policy has had many benefits. It has greatly reduced the severity of some major problems that come with overpopulation such as epidemics and slums. It has also helped out the issues with overwhelmed social services such as healthcare, education and law enforcement.

The policy has helped reduce China’s ecological footprint by decreasing the abuse of fertile land and reduced the production of high volumes of waste. It has, in recent years, provided better health service for women. There has been a reduction in the risks of death and injury in pregnancy and women receive free contraception and prenatal classes. China in recent years, for the most part, has maintained a steady labor rate with reduced unemployment. With families having to spend less money on multiple children, they have more to invest for retirement.

Finally, with fewer children, women can invest more time in their careers, increasing their personal income. With all of the benefits that have come from the policy, sometimes all the money and material possessions in the world cannot compare to the love of a child and the freedom to choose how large your family can be. In conclusion, China’s one-child policy was a drastic measure taken over thirty years ago to control a growing population problem. While it has succeeded in lowering the population and improving the economic situation, the long-term emotional and physical effects felt by families will continue to be unbearable for generations.

Losing a child due to natural causes is hard enough but being forced into abortion, sterilization and abandonment has to be so much worse. BIBLIOGRAPHY Fitzpatrick, Laura. “China’s One-Child Policy,” Time, posted July 27, 2009, http://www. time. com/time/world/article (accessed April 9, 2011). Buckley Ebrey, Patricia. Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. 2nd ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 478-481. Hesketh, Therese, Ph. D. “The Effect of China’s One-Child Policy after 25 Years,” The New England Journal of Medicine 353, no. 11 (2005): 1171-1176. Lost Girls.

DVD, directed by David Royle (2005; Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005). Phillips, Michelle. “Women forced to abort under China’s one-child policy,” The Washington Times, posted June 2, 2010, http://www. washingtontimes. com/news/2010/jun/2 (accessed April 9, 2011). Mosher, Steven W. “A Mother’s Ordeal: One Woman’s Fight Against China’s One Child Policy,” (MN: Park Press, Inc. , 1993), 56-60. Hays, Jeffrey. “One-Child Policy in China,” http://factsanddetails. com/china. php (accessed April 9, 2011). Scott, Joan. “Child Adoption in Contemporary Rural China,” Journal of Family Issues, March 27, 2006: 301-340.

Consultative Conference: “The government must end the one-child rule,” AsiaNewsit. com, March 16, 2007 (accessed April 9, 2011). Sina English, “Advisors say it’s time to change one-child policy,” Shanghai Daily, March 15, 2007. http://english. sina. com/china/1/2007/0315/ (accessed April 9, 2011). -------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Laura Fitzpatrick, “China’s One-Child Policy,” Time, posted July 27, 2009, http://www. time. com/time/world/article (accessed April 9, 2011). [ 2 ]. Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. 2nd ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 478-481. 3 ]. Therese Hesketh, Ph. D, “The Effect of China’s One-Child Policy after 25 Years,” The New England Journal of Medicine 353, no. 11 (2005): 1171-1176. [ 4 ]. Steven W. Mosher, “A Mother’s Ordeal: One Woman’s Fight Against China’s One Child Policy,” (MN: Park Press, Inc. , 1993), 56-60. [ 5 ]. Lost Girls. DVD, directed by David Royle (2005; Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005). [ 6 ]. Michelle Phillips, “Women forced to abort under China’s one-child policy,” The Washington Times, posted June 2, 2010, http://www. washingtontimes. com/news/2010/jun/2 (accessed April 9, 2011). 7 ]. Jeffrey Hays, “One-Child Policy in China,” http://factsanddetails. com/china. php (accessed April 9, 2011). [ 8 ]. Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. 2nd ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 478-481. [ 9 ]. Lost Girls. DVD, directed by David Royle (2005; Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005). [ 10 ]. Joan Scott, “Child Adoption in Contemporary Rural China,” Journal of Family Issues, March 27, 2006: 301-340. [ 11 ]. Consultative Conference: “The government must end the one-child rule,” AsiaNewsit. com, March 16, 2007 (accessed April 9, 2011). [ 12 ].

Sina English, “Advisors say it’s time to change one-child policy,” Shanghai Daily, March 15, 2007. http://english. sina. com/china/1/2007/0315/ (accessed April 9, 2011). [ 13 ]. Lost Girls. DVD, directed by David Royle (2005; Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005). [ 14 ]. Therese Hesketh, Ph. D, “The Effect of China’s One-Child Policy after 25 Years,” The New England Journal of Medicine 353, no. 11 (2005): 1171-1176. [ 15 ]. Lost Girls. DVD, directed by David Royle (2005; Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005). [ 16 ]. Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. 2nd ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 478-481.

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