Sunday, October 12, 2008

Changes to the One Child Policy

I just got back from Shenzhen after an eventful weekend in and around Chengdu. I went with a friend to her cousin's wedding back in her hometown. We hung out with her huge extended family and had a wonderful time. Even better, this trip has given me a lot of interesting topics to write about for my blog.

One of the more interesting topics I stumbled across was a new regulation regarding the 1 child policy. Officially adopted in the early 1980s as a way to control population growth in China, it stemmed from the fundamental belief that society is a big stakeholder on everyone's life. Given China's huge population, in a person's life, not only does he/she need food and shelter, but also the opportunity to go to school, find a job, have health care, ect.

It's not only a family decision to have a child, but a big part is society's ability to support this person throughout his/her life. In a country dominated by overpopulation and not enough resources even more people is a big problem. While there were some exceptions made for ethnic minorities, people in rural areas and people living in mountainous habitats, the rule was otherwise strict. Violators faced fines and other actions, sometimes including sterilization (reported).

Due to the importance placed on having a son, the government also placed strict laws against families finding out their baby's sex until he/she is born. This would prevent families wanting to abort the pregnancy after finding out they are having a girl instead of a boy. Although this policy can be circumvented through some back-door guanxi at the hospital, it's proven relatively effective.

The 1 child policy also changed the basics of family dynamics in China. As an only child myself, I didn't have any brothers or sisters. My mom was the oldest of 3 while my dad was the 2nd of 5. My grandparents were both the youngest of 7. Traditionally big families all over the country were now only allowed one child. No more brothers and sisters just cousins. In a country where family is really important, this is a big deal.

There have also been bigger problems that have come out of the 1 child policy. In a disturbing report by Al Jazeera, child abductions have been more and more frequent.

I personally agree with the 1 child policy. Although western "human rights activists" oppose it, the 1 child policy has been one of the reasons China is not at a 2 billion population right now. While having a child can be considered a right, the ability for this child to live in society is just as important or even more important.

It seems like the rules have been modified a little bit. From my conversations with numerous people on this trip, it is said that if a couple are both the only child from their respective families, this couple can have 2 children. I don't know if this is absolutely true across the country, but my friend confirmed this fact. (She and her husband just had a baby girl 5 months ago).

Although this doesn't seem to be much of a concession, it feels really big. It gives couples more opportunity to have the boy they sometimes greatly desire. It also signals a shift in the belief that China's society can support more people in the future given its economic development. Maybe its also the need for more young people in the future to support the aging population. Whatever it is, it's a big change.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The one-child policy's implementation has been weak for a long period of time already everywhere in China. It is due mainly to privitization and migration...