China Population Control

* With just over 1.3 billion people (1,330,044,605 as of mid-2008), China is the world’s most populous country. * As the world’s population is approximately 6.7 billion, China represents a full 20% of the world’s population so one in every five people on the planet is a resident of China. * China’s population growth has been somewhat slowed by the one child policy, in effect since 1979.

* China’s one child policy was established by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to limit communist China’s population growth. Although designated a “temporary measure,” it continues a quarter-century after its establishment. The policy limits couples to one child. Fines, pressures to abort a pregnancy, and even forced sterilization accompanied second or subsequent pregnancies.

* It is not an all-encompassing rule because it has always been restricted to ethnic Han Chinese living in urban areas. Citizens living in rural areas and minorities living in China are not subject to the law. However, the rule has been estimated to have reduced population growth in the country of 1.3 billion by as much as 300 million people over its first twenty years. * As recently as 1950, China’s population was a mere 563 million. The population grew dramatically through the following decades to one billion in the early 1980s. * China’s total fertility rate is 1.7, which means that, on average, each woman gives birth to 1.7 children throughout her life. The necessary total fertility rate for a stable population is 2.1; nonetheless, China’s population is expected to grow over the next few decades.

This can be attributed to immigration and a decrease in infant mortality and a decrease in death rate as national health improves. * By the late 2010s, China’s population is expected to reach 1.4 billion. Around 2030, China’s population is anticipated to peak and then slowly start dropping. * This rule has caused a disdain for female infants; abortion, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide have been known to occur to female infants.

The result of such Draconian family planning has resulted in the disparate ratio of 114 males for every 100 females among babies from birth through children four years of age. Normally, 105 males are naturally born for every 100 females. * Now that millions of sibling-less people in China are now young adults in or nearing their child-bearing years, a special provision allows millions of couples to have two children legally. If a couple is composed of two people without siblings, then they may have two children of their own, thus preventing too dramatic of a population decrease.

* Although IUDs, sterilization, and abortion (legal in China) are China’s most popular forms of birth control, over the past few years, China has provided more education and support for alternative birth control methods. * Statistically, China’s total fertility rate (the number of births per woman) is 1.7, much higher than slowly-declining Germany at 1.4 but lower than the U.S. at 2.1 (2.1 births per woman is the replacement level of fertility, representing a stable population, exclusive of migration).

* In 2007, there were reports that in the southwestern Guangxi Autonomous Region of China, officials were forcing pregnant women without permission to give birth to have abortions and levying steep fines on families violating the law. As a result, riots broke out and some may have been killed, including population control officials.

* One of the advantages of population growth control is the possible reduction of poverty. There is no doubt that vastly over-populated areas suffer from greater degrees of poverty. * As populations grow, resources are over-stretched and many end up in situations where they have to rely on state benefits in order to survive. This in turn puts further strain on resources. Controlling population growth could result in more evenly spread resources.

* There are, however, certain disadvantages to a growth controlling program, as has been proven in the Chinese example. Laws enforcing a single child policy can lead to all sorts of problems, from forced abortions to involuntary sterilizations. * Women accidentally becoming pregnant a second time face having to lose their child or a life in hiding, possibly resulting in great poverty. * When China’s population control was imposed in 1980, it was meant to be a temporary measure which the government promised to phase out in three decades. It was intended to halt the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

* But as China is preparing to mark the 30th anniversary of its ‘one-child’ policy next year, indications are that the policy would remain in place despite mounting opposition from the general public and experts who question its success. * During the annual session of the National Parliament in March, a senior legislator tabled a proposal for further tightening of the family planning rules, arguing that many of China’s current problems stemmed from lapses in implementing the policy.

* The world’s most populous country is plagued by the depletion of resources amid an oversupply of labour, all of which threaten a serious unemployment crisis, he alleged. * ‘Without solving China’s population problem, we will never be able to measure our country power against that of European countries and the United States,’ Cheng Enfu, dean of the Marxist Studies Institute with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said during the plenary discussions of the parliament. ‘Our gross domestic product and our living standards will always lag behind those countries’.

* Cheng called for a halt to the relaxation of the ‘one child’ policy, predicting that China will not be able to progress if it wavers on population control. * While experts and legislators have been debating the pros and cons of the policy in recent years, Cheng’s analysis directly equated China’s population control to the country’s economic success. * Previous debates have tended to focus on the quality of the nation, highlighting the difficulties of feeding and educating China’s 1.3 billion people.

* ‘Less is better’ has long been a widely used slogan by population control officials during their campaigns to raise awareness across the country. * China is not the country with the most serious population problems in the world but its population control is the most draconian,’ said one commentator. ‘Even if we only consider Asia, there are at least three counters with bigger population density than China – Japan, South Korea and Israel.

In Europe, one third of the countries are more densely populated than China. Are more strict measures really needed?’ * In recent years, the success of China’s family planning measures has become a matter of much debate. Government officials credit the ‘one-child’ policy with preventing some 350 million births over 30 years and reducing the Chinese birthrate to 1.7 children per woman from more than six in the 1960s. * Defenders of the policy evoke images of the early 1970s when the economy was struggling to feed a rapidly expanding population.

* Arguably, the ‘one-child’ policy is the policy with the biggest public impact ever rolled out by the communist Chinese leaders. But when it was imposed in 1980 it was not even submitted for endorsement by the national parliament. * From the moment of its inception, the policy has met with fierce and often violent opposition from peasants. In 1984, the rules were amended to permit two children if the first was a girl or handicapped. Ethnic minorities were also allowed two children.

But in the big cities,families were restricted to just one child and subjected to fines if the rule was violated. * In the countryside, protests against forced abortions and excessively high fines routinely flared up. One of the biggest recent protests happened last year in Guangxi province where hundreds of farmers rioted, accusing officials of charging five times the officially mandated amount for breaching the policy.

* Since China entered the new millennium, population experts have become bolder in questioning the wisdom of implementing stringent population controls. They point out an array of social problems that have accompanied its implementation. * China, which last year replaced Germany as the world’s third largest economy, is aging so rapidly that by 2050, there could be two working people for every elderly, compared with 13 to one now. The problem of shrinking workforce is compounded by the lack of a full-fledged social safety net, which places the responsibility of the ageing population on a dwindling number of children.

* Draconian restrictions on childbirth are being blamed also for a gender imbalance that China might have to endure for decades. In Chinese society, where Confucian tradition places a strong emphasis on male heirs, there are now millions of more boys than girls. * In most countries, males slightly outnumber females – between 103 and 107 male births for every 100 female births. But in China there are now 120 male to 100 female births. * Numbers are not really the biggest problem with the existing population control policy,’ Ji Baocheng, a population expert. ‘Family planning laws are supposed to be conducive to family harmony but if we continue doing things as we did in the 1980s, achieving harmony would be very difficult’.