One Child Policy versus Human Rights

The one-child policy in China has gained mixed reactions since it was implemented. The citizens claimed the policy was too harsh, particularly the consequences of the inability to comply with the said policy. The policy has been related to cases of human rights violations but it was able to meet the country’s goal of limiting population growth. An issue rises whether attaining the country’s economic goals is more important than the welfare and personal preferences of its citizens.

The policy may no longer be applicable in the current setting in China but Chinese leaders insist that it is still the way to go. Considering that the policy has been used as a medium of abuse, it is probably the appropriate time that China adopted a less harsh policy. Initially, Chinese leaders thought of population as an asset and more population would strengthen the country. However, the leaders soon realized that there are a lot of problems involving rapid population growth such as it contributes to the rapid consumption of the country’s natural resources and per capita income is greatly affected.

In August 1956, the Ministry of Public Health conducted major birth control campaigns but it only had a minimal effect on fertility rate of women. In the early part of 1960, the birth control propaganda focused on the advantages of late marriage and this became successful as it was able to reduce birth rate by half from 1963 to 1966. This, however did not last long as the efforts were disrupted by the Cultural Revolution.

Serious in its efforts to control birth rate, birth control offices were put up in various areas in 1964 (Population Control Programs). A nationwide birth control campaign was set up in 1972 to 1973. These birth control efforts covering both urban and rural areas were given so much attention that committees were formed to oversee the implementation of birth control services and programs. In 1973, Mao Zedong has advocated for population control more than any political leader in China.

He was greatly involved in the birth control efforts existent in the country. However, even after Mao Zedong’s death which came in 1976, other leaders still doubted if controlling population would constitute to economic growth and better living standards (Population Control Programs). In the middle part of the 1970s, the recommended number of children was two for urban areas and four in the rural areas. Come 1979, the government has strictly implemented the one-child policy for both urban and rural areas.

Couples are allowed to have a maximum of two children for special cases such as when the first child is a female. Rewards such as cash bonuses, “longer maternity leaves, better child care, and preferential housing assignments” were given to those who complied with the policy while those who were unable to comply were fined and given jail time (Population Control Programs).

The one-child policy was envisioned by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 (Rosenberg). In the introduction of the policy, the Chinese government indicated that they have a target population of 1. 2 billion at the end of 2000 but the census indicated that by the end of the said year, population number to 1. 27 billion but some experts still refer to this number as an underestimate saying that population statistics in China is prone to manipulation to prove the effectiveness of population control methods. Chinese officials say that the one-child policy has prevented 250 million to 300 million births and has significantly decreased fertility rate which is now below replacement level.

Fertility rate in China is only at 1. 22 which is far from the replacement level of 2. 1. This level of fertility is almost at par with the world lowest fertility rate which is Italy and Japan that has fertility rates just a few notches higher than 1 (Hesketh). The implementation of the policy demanded a huge amount of resources. Budget for birth control programs increased to 4. 82 billion Yuan in 1998 from 1. 34 billion in 1990. The Finance Minister indicated that per capita input also increased from 2. 64 in 1995 to 8. 93 in 2002. This is at the central government level (Feng, p. 7-8).