China ends controversial ‘one child policy’ after almost four decades

In March 2016, China’s one-child policy will be set aside and the new and updated two-child policy will take its place. But is it too late?

On Thursday October 29th 2015, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) revealed its new plans for early in the New Year to relax the infamous one-child policy and invite couples to have a second child.

Introduced in the late 1970s, the one-child policy has been in place for almost four decades and has had some brutal consequences. Although this will come as a liberation to the nation, the decision by Chinese President XI Jinping to scrap the policy is recognized by many as too late to have significant effect. Had it have been corrected earlier, the demographics of the People’s Republic of China would not be in the unbalanced, potentially irreparable state it is currently in.

So why was it implemented in the first place? Well, in 1950, China’s population growth rate was at 1.9 per cent per year. Although this figure may seem insignificant, it has been estimated that, had the rate increased to three percent, the country’s population would have doubled within less than 24 years. The Chinese governments quickly recognised that this surge in population would soon be unsustainable, hence the controversial introduction of the one-child policy.

This detrimental two-child policy change has been considered by the National Health and Family Planning Commission. Their recent predictions suggest China’s birth rate, recorded at 12 million in 2013, will, from the implementation of the policy in 2016, reach a figure of 20 million each year.

Contrary to this proposed figure, government official reports reveal that 60 per cent of the 90 million eligible women have surpassed the age of 35. This could indicate that these women may be more career-driven and more concerned with supporting their traditional one-child orientated family over considering a second child, despite it being their soon-to-be new, contemporary right.

Chai Ling, the founder of All Girls Allowed, said that “when people hear the one-child policy, they don’t realise that it means every other child must die.” Abortions, sterilisations and infantile are words embedded in a generation as an effect of the one-child policy. Commentators have suggested that Beijing’s recent announcement of the two-child policy will do little for the enormous gender imbalance currently in crisis in China. Before the one-child policy, China’s socialist planned economy emphasised gender equality as a key role in society.

Due to the aging but still applicable ideological structure that males are of more economic and social value over females, providing they weren’t aborted, many females born into China’s one-child regime were neglected, abused or trafficked by their own flesh and blood.

The effect on the gender imbalance in the Chinese population as a result of the one-child policy is visible in Kang and Wang’s National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Survey. In 1979, this survey revealed an average sex ratio of 106:100 (boys:girls). Just over 20 years later, in 2001, the ratio had developed to 117:100. Recent statistics from the US Congressional-Executive commission on China have quantified the ratio as of January 2010 for the infant to four year old age group in China as an astounding 123:100.

These statistics confirm the national estimates that China has 40 million additional males to females. Consequently, this may have left China with a generational surplus of men unable to find a partner.

In addition, families may face an intimidating economic challenge from having a second child. As revealed by online statistical resource website, Statista, public spending is expected to drop from 30.88 per cent of annual GDP to 28.52 per cent by 2020. Currently, the communist country is already regarded by many to not sufficiently provide for social services required by its publics. A further consideration is that any additional child born as a result of the implementation of the two-child policy will not be an asset to China’s ever-growing labour force until at least 2030. These two factors simultaneously present having a second child as an infeasible and irresponsible option for a large number of Chinese families.

Although the two-child policy is a step in the right direction for the rights and freedoms of the Chinese people, it will be decades until they can redeem themselves from the demographic spiral of gender imbalance, and the succinctly embedded cultural influences of the one-child policy. Also, it should be considered that the two-child policy has been implemented as a way for the Chinese Communist Party to further exert its powers and influences on its people – and that the forced abortions, legally implemented as a result of the one-child policy, may be replaced with the monitoring of pregnancies and births.