One Child vs. Two Children Policy in China Essay

The population control policy, which was also known as the one child policy, was applied in China with the aim of better family planning and control of number of citizens. For the first time it was introduced in 1978-1980. More than one third of the whole population of China was subjected to one-child limit. There was a certain percentage of families, which were allowed to have their second child, under the condition that their first child was female. This policy was controlled with the help of fines, the size of which was defined on the bases of the family’s income. “Population and Family Planning Commissions exist at every level of government to raise awareness and carry out registration and inspection work.” (Goh 2011). Initially this policy was considered to be a kind of temporary step, in order to control the consumption of water and other resources, needed for humans to survive. In addition, there were enough social, economic and other problems in the country, which could be influenced positively by such policy. At the moment it is not quite possible to calculate statistically what the actual impact of the application of one-child policy has been, in other words to comment upon the actual reduction of population. According to the information, received from the Chinese government, the result of this policy was the prevention of around 400 million births. The Pew Research Center provided the report that 76 % of the Chinese citizens supported the one-child policy, still this doesn’t mean that it was not controversial and sophisticated for the country due to a number of reasons.

The birth rates are usually dependant upon various factors, such as life conditions, social situation, medical care system, environment and so on. “During the period of Mao Zedong’s leadership in China, the crude birth rate fell from 37 to 20 per thousand, infant mortality declined from 227/1000 births in 1949 to 53/1000 in 1981, and life expectancy dramatically increased from around 35 years in 1948 to 66 years in 1976.” (Greenhalgh 2008). Certainly under such conditions government had to support families in their intention to have as many children, as it was possible. Later, starting from 1970s people were encouraged to have not more than two children per family. Then the conversations about overpopulation and the consequences of it started. “With a group of mathematicians, Song determined the correct population of China to be 700 million. A plan was prepared to reduce China’s population to the desired level by 2080, with the one child policy as one of the main instruments of social engineering. In spite of some criticism inside the party, the plan was officially adopted in 1979.” (Goh 2011). At the very beginning this should have been the plan to create one-generation policy. Started from the 2013 this policy went through relaxation. For example those families, where parents were the only children, were allowed to have two children. The relaxed policy was applied in 29 out of 31 provinces of the country. “In 2013, Deputy Director Wang Peian of the National Health and Family Planning Commission said that “China’s population will not grow substantially in the short term”. A survey by the commission found that only about half of eligible couples wish to have two children, mostly because of the cost of living impact of a second child.” (Goh 2011). Later on more options for relaxation were considered and starting from 1987 local officials received their right for flexibility in concrete defining of these options. The well-known “four-two-one” problem is also the result of one-child policy, as when those only-children came of age for starting up their own families, they are to take care of older members of the families, of their parents and four grandparents.

It was already mentioned that there are a lot of aspects, related to birth –control policies. One of such aspects is health care policy, as women get the chance to get qualitative health care service, which is important for avoiding of the risks of injury or death during pregnancy or birth process. One of the most important roles is played by timely education and consultations for contraception or pre-natal issues. Taking into consideration that such services are free of charge, Chinese people have the possibility to save money for other investments and as soon as they get older, they don’t have to rely fully upon their children in terms of financial support for health care. This problem is rather serious for older generation, as this makes them utterly dependant upon the retirement funds. In case there are any problems with personal savings or pensions, then the older generations would have not enough resources.

The term “black child” appeared in China, meaning those children, who were born breaking the one –child policy and not registered with national registration system of China. This means that these children do not exist legally, they are not able to use a lot of public services, they are not protected by the law of the country.

Social problems are the outcomes of the one-child policy not only outside families, but also inside. A lot of parents, who know that they are allowed to have only one single child, over-indulge them. Some of the researchers stated that there is a high risk of problems with social communication and cooperation for younger generations, when all children are used to be in the center of the universe starting from their early years. “However, the “little emperor syndrome” and additional expressions, describing the generation of Chinese singletons are very abundant in the Chinese media, Chinese academia and popular discussions. Being over-indulged, lacking self-discipline and having no adaptive capabilities are traits that are highly associated with Chinese singletons.” (Goh 2011). Birth tourism is another widely-spread practice in China, because Chinese women, who want to have the second child, decide to travel to Hong Kong or elsewhere with the aim of giving birth to the second child, where it is not prohibited. “As further admission cuts or a total ban on non-local births in Hong Kong are being considered, mainland agencies that arrange for expectant mothers to give birth overseas are predicting a surge in those going to North America.” (Greenhalgh 2008).

In 2015 the government of the country started to reconsider the possibility to abolish the one-child policy, allowing all families to have two children. One of the main reasons was the fact that there are too many old people in China and too few young people. Thus one-child policy, which was supposed to regulate the demographic situation properly, caused other demographic problems instead. This is evident that there always should be the balance in any society, in other words, there should be enough young people, able to work and to support the aging part of the population. “China’s ratio is about five working adults to one retiree; the huge retiree community must be supported, and that will dampen future growth, according to Fong.” (Serrano, Clarke 2015). The forecasts for 2060 are not positive, as there would be one-third of the whole population of China aged 60 and over. There are a lot of supporters of this current tendency to relax the reproduction restrictions, but at the same time they are convinced that this is not the universal solution to the problems of forced sterilization, forced abortions and control over birth permits from the side of the government. Also there are a lot of doubts that such relaxation would also mean relaxation in authoritarian control in the country. “It was not a sign that the party will suddenly start respecting personal freedoms more than it has in the past. No, this is a case of the party adjusting policy to conditions. …The new policy, raising the limit to two children per couple, preserves the state’s role.” (Serrano, Clarke 2015).

Sex –based birth rate disparity is related to sex ratio between girls and boys births in China. Statistically between the years 2000 and 2013 it was 117:100. According to the reports from the National Population and Family Planning Commission there is a risk of increase of male population till 30 million more men than woman by 2020. A lot of families accepted the result of the first child, whether it was a boy or a girl. Those, who were allowed to have the second child, did their best to take possible steps to secure that this is a boy.  “Even the government acknowledges the problem and has expressed concern about the tens of millions of young men who won’t be able to find brides and may turn to kidnapping women, sex trafficking, other forms of crime or social unrest” (Serrano, Clarke 2015). Unfortunately the forecasts for the nearest future are not positive, as it is considered that there still will be 24 million more men than women. Upon acceptance of the two-children policy, instead of one-child policy, there is still a question, whether it might lead to baby boom, or rather most of the couples would take the decision still to have only one child in order to remain competitive in the society, they are living in.

Overall, one-child policy in China was seen as one of the necessary steps in order to control the birth rates and population growth in the country, however it in its turn led to other problems and caused a lot of controversies; currently the country is reconsidering it in favor for two-children policy.

Works cited:

Connett, W. Understanding China’s Former One Child Policy, 2015

Fong, M. One Child: The Past and Future of China’s Most Radical Experiment. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

Frett, L. M. The End of China’s One-Child Policy Isn’t Enough, 2015

Goh, C.L. “China’s One-Child Policy and Multiple Caregiving: raising little suns in Xiamen”. Journal of International and Global Studies. New York: Routledge, 2011

Greenhalgh, S. Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China (illustrated ed.). University of California Press, 2008

Phillips, T. China ends one-child policy after 35 years, 2015

Serrano, M., Clarke, A.  See How the One-Child Policy Changed China.  National Geographic, 2015

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: May 24, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]
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