One is the Loneliest Number: China's One Child Policy

Figures have recently emerged from a Chinese national census suggesting the country’s one-child policy may in fact have been to the detriment of its demographic despite the controversial policy being introduced to avert unmanageable population growth and a Malthusian disaster.

Caijing news site has reported: “The results of a national census conducted late last year show that China has a population of 1.34 billion, increasing 5.84 percent compared with the last national census in 2000.

The proportion of elderly aged 60 and above grew 2.93 percentage points than that in 2000 and people aged at 65 and above accounts 8.87 percent of total, rose 1.91 percent from 2000, the census results shows.

This evidence of an ageing population undermines the purpose of the policy which was to guarantee social prosperity on the basis of controlled population growth: the lack of working age citizens relative to the number of retirees will burden tax payers and the country’s social security system with the health and welfare needs of a top heavy society. The one-child policy may therefore become a complete embarrassment to the Chinese Communist Party, as well as having caused some of the most brutal and inhuman methods of policy implementation in the famously draconian Communist state.

Forced abortions rank highly among the human rights abuses the policy has apparently necessitated. Women as far as eight and even nine months pregnant have been forced to abort their second children, in a horrific display of administrative zeal from provincial government keen to show willing to the central authority in Beijing. Beijing, however, has relaxed the demands of the policy possibly in response to growing alarm about its effects; the policy is now being blamed for the onset of an ageing population and the social security concerns this will produce.

Political stability in China has long been associated with prosperity in the mind of the central government. The one-child policy was introduced to avert the social crisis that could be provoked by an explosion in population numbers. The central government in Beijing fears any social disorder and will often counter even the potential for it with extreme measures. The recent crackdown on political dissent – including the disappearance of Tate exhibited artist Ai Weiwei – is the most significant exercise of tyrannical authority the country has seen for years and all in response to the perceived threat of the ‘domino effect’ of the Arab Spring, despite little to suggest a similar uprising will take place in China.

The one-child policy, which includes certain exemptions including the right for couples to have two children in rural areas, has been blamed for many negative social consequences, and credited for few positive ones. The policy has slowed population growth; however, other developing nations such as India have achieved comparable effects without taking the same legislative measures. On the downside, the policy has created generations of only children, so-called ‘little empresses and emperors’ who receive the undivided attention of their parents. Child psychologists express concern about the negative effects this kind of familial arrangement can have on these children’s characters and future happiness. This is a mild consequence, however, relative to the more shocking implications of the policy.

To enforce the policy, parents having a second child in urban areas must pay a fine. This has uneven effects on an increasingly unequal society; richer couples can simply pay for enhanced domestic happiness, while poorer parents must forfeit much of their livelihood to pay for the same luxury. It has been the case that poor couples unable to pay the fine have had their houses pulled to the ground, or have been deprived of other means they had of making a living. In the most extreme cases, the local authority may pressurise and indeed actually force a woman into having an abortion. In some instances, mothers who have resisted successfully have had their newborn babies taken from them never to be seen again. This is another devastating consequence of the policy; the impact it has had on human trafficking. Baby boys can be sold to couples unable to produce their desired heir, while other babies may be taken to orphanages and sold to foreign couples unable to conceive.

The policy has enhanced the emphasis couples place on male offspring; ultra sound screenings are now widely used to determine whether the couple will keep or abort their child on the basis of its sex. The preference for boys sees thousands of female foetuses aborted each year. Although it is illegal for couples to be told the sex of their unborn child this law is often easily bypassed through bribery.

This manipulation of biology has distorted the gender ratio in the country. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has released estimates that by 2020 24 million men of marrying age will find themselves without a spouse. This is expected to hit males lower down the socio-economic chain most drastically, as most females will be able to be more selective in choosing their spouses and Chinese culture places importance on the socio-economic standing of prospective marital partners. The lack of female partners for such a vast number of men is expected to increase social violence, forced prostitution and the trafficking of women internally and from neighbouring countries. All for a policy which has defeated its own purpose; to optimise the country’s demography and consequently ensure social stability and prosperity.

Images from genYchina and Australian Women Online



Mabrur Ahmed

i think the real problem that China may face in the next generation is the clash of capitalism and communism, whilst governance is still under communist ways, China's exploits are increasingly capitalist - unfortunately, as is seen across the world, it will be those lowest down the ladder who will always be exploited - great piece Kate :)

24 May 2011 delete
Rahima Begum

Thank you for sharing Kate. Its worrying that we live in a world where the freedom to concieve and give birth as we wish is also monitored.

25 May 2011 delete