After the People’s Republic of China had been founded in 1949, the improved sanitation and medicine promoted rapid population growth. Before long, the population boom started to take a major toll on the country’s food supply. Officials launched a campaign to promote birth control in 1955 in order to deal with the overpopulation. Their efforts were reversed though, in 1958 by the Great Leap Forward, which was Mao Zedong’s attempt to rapidly convert China into what he thought would be a modern industrialized state.
By 1962, there was a massive famine in China that caused about 30 million deaths.
During the aftermath of the famine, officials tried multiple times, with several different campaigns, to reduce the population. One of these campaigns was successful, using the slogan “Late, Long and Few.” China’s population growth fell by half from 1970 to 1976. The population growth then proceeded to level off, causing officials to seek more drastic measures to reduce population growth. This resulted in what is now known as China’s One Child Policy, which was introduced in 1979 (“Brief History”).
The One Child Policy restricts urban couples from having more than one child. There are exceptions for rural families and ethnic minorities, officially anyway. There are many problems with the policy and it has been implicated in forced abortions and female infanticide. One of the biggest problems with the policy is that it is a violation to every person’s human rights. It violates not only a person’s right to privacy of information and their body and it also violates the basic human right to choose the size of one’s own family. The gender imbalance is another big problem with the policy and it is leaving many men without the option to get married and is affecting the crime rate in a negative way. There is also the relatively smaller issue of having an entire generation of only children and the possible social issues that that can cause.
Another big problem is that there is an age disparity between the young and the old that is beginning to and will continue to have an impact on the economy of China. A big argument against the policy is also that it was never needed in the first place. The One Child Policy in China needs to be abolished. China’s One-Child Policy violates a human right to determine the size of one’s own family. No family should be forced to only have one child by any government, and that is exactly what the Chinese government is doing to their citizens. Chinese officials have said before that the one-child policy is optional. The catch is that the violators of the policy will be fined. For example, in an article by Debra Cassens Weiss, who holds a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law and a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois, she talks about Yang Zhitzhu, a law professor at China Youth University for Political Sciences, who was charged a $37,000 “social upbringing fee” in 2009 for violating the one-child policy.
He also lost his job and, as a protest, put himself up for sale, vowing to serve his master until death, for $100,000. Also, because he did not pay the fee, his second daughter will not be granted household registration papers that would entitle her to a public education and healthcare. So, not only does the father get fined and lose his job because he decided to have a second child, his daughter now also has to suffer. Why should the daughter be punished for something the father did, when she did nothing to deserve the punishment? No person should be punished for being born. Executive director, Harry Wu, of the Laogi Research Foundation, which is an organization that collects information about forced labor camps and other human rights violations in China, wrote an article talking about Gao Xiao Duan and her testimony about the one-child policy in front of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights on June 10, 1998.
Gao was worked as an administrator at the Yonghe town planned-birth office. “She was to carry out the dictates of the communist regime in accordance with the ‘one child’ policy.” She explained in the hearing her daily duties. Gao issued “‘birth allowance’ certificates to women who meet the policy and regulations of the central and provincial planned-birth committees.”
She issued “birth-not-allowed notices” notices as well, which were made public for the purpose of making it known to everybody that the couple was in violation of the one-child policy, facilitating the supervision of the couple. Gao also issued “birth control measures implementation notices.” This meant that all women who were of child-bearing age were notified that they must have contraceptive device reliability and pregnancy examinations when necessary. If a woman failed to arrive for one of these, a supervision team would apprehend her and force her to have the examinations required.
Issuing notices on whether or not a woman can have a child violates the basic human right to be able to choose whether or not she wants to have a child violates the privacy of information of the citizens of China. And requiring them to have examinations on the reliability of their contraceptive device and their pregnancy status is a violation of every human’s right to privacy over their own body. The idea that the women are taken and forced to have theses examinations takes away any freedom that they could have had over the issue, and that shows that the Chinese government has too much control over the citizens of China when it comes to the one-child policy.
Another problem with the One-Child Policy is the growing gender imbalance in China. In January 2010 the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) said that within ten years, one in five young men would not be able to find a wife because of the shrinking amount of women in the country. According to the CASS, China will have 30 million to 40 million more men, ages 19 and under, than women by 2020. To put this into perspective, there are about 23 million boys age 20 and under in Germany, France, and Britain combined. There are about 40 million boys in the Unites States (“Worldwide War”). This means that China has enough men outnumbering women to populate Europe’s three most populated countries or to populate the entire United States male population.
The sex ratio in China has been growing significantly since the 1980’s. The sex ratio in China for the generation born between 1985 and 1989 was 108 (meaning there were 108 males born for every 100 females), which is considered to be a little out of the natural range. For the generation born between 200 and 2004, the sex ratio was an astounding 124. And according to the CASS, the ratio is at 123 today, which is said to be biologically impossible without human intervention (“Worldwide War”).
This is on the national level, once someone looks into the different regions and provinces in China they get a clearer picture of how bad the imbalance is. In an analysis of Chinese household data carried out in 2005 and then reported to the British Medical Journal, only a single region, Tibet, has a sex range that are considered to be within the bounds of nature. Fourteen more provinces have a sex ratio of above 120. And two more had an extremely unnatural rate of over 130 (“Worldwide War”).
Then gender imbalance is causing more problems than just men not being able to find a bride though. It is also affecting the amount of crimes being committed in China. “Throughout human history, young men have been responsible for the vast preponderance of crime and violence—especially single men in countries where status and social acceptance depend on being married and having children” ( “Worldwide War”). This could very easily mean a lot of trouble for China, as there crime rate keeps rising.
China’s crime rate has almost doubled in the past twenty years because of the rising sex ratio. A study into whether the sex ratio and the crime rate were connected concluded that about one-seventh of the crime rate increase was accounted to the rising sex ration. Some of the biggest crimes on the rise are said to be bride abduction, trafficking of women, prostitution, and rape (“Worldwide War”).
With one-seventh of the crime rate rise being accounted to the gender imbalance and the gender imbalance becoming more and more lopsided, China is in big trouble if they don’t do something about the gender imbalance soon. They could just throw everybody who commits a crime in prison, but they will surely run out of room at some point. China needs to address the issue of the gender imbalance by looking back at what they can do to alter the one-child policy so it does not favor having a boy if they will not get rid of the policy altogether.
Another issue with the One-Child Policy in China is that it leaves an entire generation of only children. In March of 2007 delegates of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body in China, stated that China should abolish the One Child Policy because “it creates social problems and personality disorders in young people” (“Consultative Conference”). Only Children are known to be more selfish and have a harder time communicating with peers, which is a problem if you have an entire generation of what are being called “Little Emperors”
There is also the issue of the increase in percentage of citizens over the age of sixty and decrease in percentage of younger citizens. The latest census information shows that the policy has been working. The population rose to 1.34 billion as of last year from 1.27 billion in 2000. This puts the average annual growth at 0.57 percent for the decade. Compared to the previous decade, which had an average annual growth of 1.07 percent, this is a good decrease for the country. The problem, however, is that the census also shows that citizens over the age of 60 now represent 13.3 percent of China’s population, which is an increase from 10.3 percent in 2000. And also the amount of future workers, age 14 and under, has been shrinking.
Citizens age 14 and under now make up 16.6 percent of the population, which is a drop from 23 percent in 2000 (“Plan Faces New Fire”). To help paint the picture even more, by 2030, the number of citizens in their 20’s is going to drop by 35percent and the number of citizens ages 55 to 60 is going to increase by 60 percent. The number of people ages 65 and over is going to jump by an even more astounding 100 percent in the same period of time (Elizabeth Economy).
This basically means that China’s elderly population is rapidly growing as the generation before the One-Child Policy are retiring, putting an extremely heavy burden on the rest of Chinese society to cover the cost of their retirement. While the retirees are rapidly growing, the workforce is even more rapidly shrinking. This will begin “reversing the demographic phenomenon of a widening pool of low-cost labor that powered a manufacturing boom over the past three decades” (“Plan Faces New Fire”).
This leads to a subsequent problem caused by the retirees growing and workers shrinking, and that problem is that it is crippling China’s economy. For example, in an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, Kevin Hamlin, a reporter for Bloomberg News, talks about Lin Chang Jie, who is battling to save his family’s business.
He is faced with a dwindling supply of workers, forcing him to pay higher wages. Lin must attempt to change his Dejin Textile into an online fashion retailer in order to reduce headcount and keep his business from failing like many others. Lin is having such a problem because the decrease in labor is largely the unskilled labor that is used in factories to produce low-margin goods, such as clothes, toys and furniture. The lack of unskilled labor is a huge problem considering these low-margin goods made up 68 percent of China’s exports last year according to China’s customs agency.
According to Hamlin’s article, the upward pressure on wages is forcing mainland companies to upgrade to what are considered to be higher-value products. China may have as few as five years to make the transition to avoid a economic slump because growth may decline from 2016 to 2020 as low-cost producers begin to fail and investment starts to fall away.
There is also what is called the four-two-one problem, which will have a negative effect on the economy on the individual level. The four-two-one problem is that the citizens who grew up as only children will be forced to support up to six people by themselves. They will have to support their parents when they retire and up to four grandparents. Because men outnumber women so greatly, that leaves a lot of single men to support both their parents and grandparents. This will cause individual citizens to save more money and in the process hurt the economy because they aren’t putting as much money back into it.
Chinese officials would argue that the economy improved as a result of the One-Child policy. While the economy has improved during the length of the policy, that doesn’t mean that the policy should receive credit for the improvement. China’s economy made great advances before the One-Child Policy too. What is to say that the economic advances should not be attributed to the economic reforms rather than to the population policy? If China does not do something about the One-Child Policy causing a disparity in age, they could be looking at a huge economic downfall. This downfall will be as a result of failing companies and lack of investment as well as the lack of spending on the individual level due to the four-two-one problem.
There are also some people who say, even though the policy seems to be doing its job, that the One-Child Policy was unnecessary in the first place. An advocacy group that is made up of two dozen leading demographers, economists and former Family Planning officials joined together to fight the policy in 2000. This group, who knew that China’s fertility rate was declining before the One-Child Policy began in 1980. The fertility rate hade dropped to 2.7 in 1979 from 5.5 in 1970 because of a policy that encouraged, but did not force, Chinese citizens to marry later, wait longer between children, and have fewer babies.
The group also knew that fertility rates in other developing countries showed similar results. Because of this information, group members began to conduct quiet field research to prove that China’s fertility rate had fallen well below what is known as the replacement rate of 2.1. The replacement rate is generally required to keep a population stable. Taking into account exemptions, the group calculated that the fertility rate should be 1.47 if the policy was implemented correctly. As of today, the group says the fertility rate has been about 1.8, well below 2.1, since 1991. The group assumes that many children are born secretly to avoid fines and that if you take that out the fertility rate is actually between 1.5 and 1.6 (“Plan Faces New Fire”).
While the group is only arguing for a two-child policy at minimum, their point is that the One-Child Policy never needed to be implemented in the first place. China would have had a fertility rate closer to the replacement rate if it would have continued to just encourage citizens to have fewer kids and get married later. Why should China keep a policy that is hurting the country if it was not needed in the first place? China’s One-Child Policy needs to be taken away. The policy violates the basic human rights of any person. Every person living on this planet has the basic right to choose the size of their own family; it shouldn’t be decided by the government of any country. Even though some Chinese officials have said the policy is optional, the government heavily fines those who violate it, $37,000 in the case of Yang Zhitzhu.
And, as explained by Gao Xiao Duan’s testimony, the policy also violates human privacy over one’s own body by being forced to take examinations on their state of pregnancy or whether or not their contraceptive device is functioning properly. There is also an obvious violation of Chinese citizens’ right to privacy of their information. The gender imbalance, which is far above the natural range, is leaving men unable to find a bride and is directly linked to China’s increasing crime rates. When a policy is connected to an increase crimes such as rape, kidnapping, and prostitution it is a policy that should not exist. Also, the growing age disparity is crippling the economy in China. It will be more evident in a few years, but shrinking work force along with the growing amount of retirees are beginning to destroy the unskilled labor jobs, which were the cause of China’s economic boom to begin with.
And the four-two-one problem is hampering economic growth because citizens are forced to save more money instead of putting it back into the economy. There is also the fact that the policy may not have been needed in the first place and that the fertility rate in China is dangerously lower than the replacement rate of 2.1, making it impossible to have a stable population. If the policy was not needed to begin with and it isn’t really helping the country, China must get rid of it. So yes, the one child policy has reduced the growth of the population significantly, but at what cost is it being done?