The one-child policy is not fully laid to rest, but it might not be too far off as the vast majority of provincial regions in China have now relaxed the policy. At a meeting of the National People’s Congress, which took place late last year, resolutions were passed, which made waves on news and social media–most notable among them were the end of labor camps as a tool of “reeducation” as well as a significant change to China’s famed one-child policy, or rather, a “fine-tuning”, to borrow a phrase from the official statement. In a nutshell, if either member of a couple is an only child, then that couple can have two children.
Changes did not take place on the ground immediately, but were rolled out on an ad-hoc local basis. Xinhuanet explained that “The resolution, equal to a legal document in China, entrusts provincial congresses and their standing committees to make the call about implementing the new policy.” Now it seems that the vast majority of China’s provincial regions have instituted the change. According to WantChinaTimes:
“Twenty-nine of 31 provincial regions in the Chinese mainland have relaxed the decades-old one-child policy, allowing couples to have a second baby if either parent is an only child, said a senior family planning official on Thursday.
Eastern China’s Zhejiang province took the lead to green-light the relax in the policy on Jan. 17 this year, while Xinjiang and Tibet have not made the move yet, said Yang Wenzhuang, director-general of the Department of Community Family Planning under the National Health and Family Planning Commission, at a press conference.”
The one-child policy was introduced under Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to combat the problems a skyrocketing population posed to the development of China’s fragile economy, and in that aim it certainly delivered. The precise number of births prevented by the measure is, of course, up for conjecture, with Xinhua offering an estimate of around 400 million. That’s probably a load the Chinese economy was glad to do without.
The policy has, however, been controversial for many of its other effects, most notably social ones. There is the obvious disparity between the policy and traditional Chinese values, most specifically the widely-held ideas that to have more children is to be blessed, as well as the concept that failing to producing offspring is not filial.
Perhaps a more worrying effect is China’s gender imbalance—117 male per 100 female births—which has led to a wealth of social problems. There is also the agony over abortion, infanticide, and the hefty fines that often come with the decision to have a second child.
The economic effects of the radical measure have also come under scrutiny, with many suggesting that China may well suffer a serious and possibly catastrophic demographic crisis, which will arise as a result of its aging population.
Master image courtesy of Flickr user: Roger Price. Used and edited under a Creative Commons license.