Analysis of the One Child Policy in China

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The One Child Policy: A potential debacle

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During the 1970's, China’s fertility rate dropped at a striking pace - incomparable to any other nation in the same span of time. By 1980, fertility rates had dropped to just over 2.0[1] and continued to further decrease as the 80’s progressed. This hefty reduction was accredited to the deployment of the One Child Policy - implemented to address the fears of China’s main demographic leaders who feared that post-development, China’s population size would surpass its carrying capacity. Facilitated by the dogma presented by military scientists during the Maoist era - the One Child policy presented a arithmetical and empirical solution to China’s demographic problem whilst discounting the social costs of such a regime[2]. The One Child Policy was strictly implemented from the 1980’s onwards in order to achieve a target population size of 1.2 billion people by the year 2000[3]. The policy was developed primarily by Song Jian, a esteemed strategic weaponeer whose experience as a defense scientist required that the One Child Policy be executed using the same “big push” strategy used in military affairs. This implied a thrust that entailed total leadership commitment and a massive mobilization of the nations resources[4] which ultimately destroyed living standards in the rural areas through forced abortion and abuse of women. The consequences of the One Child Policy were that there would be a significant increase in the dependency rate of the elderly over the next 25-30 years, there would be a large gender imbalance and the Chinese working class would eventually grow old and ‘expire.' It is believed that a more liberal policy may have been more effective in tackling China’s demographic problems. Under the assumption that deriving such a policy in China was a more liberal process, we will evaluate an alternative to the One Child Policy and examine its implications by applying Mancur Olsen’s theory of the collective action problem. Traditionally, the basic domestic units of Chinese society constitute of the economic family and the descent line. The Chinese tradition of a patrilineal society entails that males are the dominant individuals in the descent line and that they are considered highly more significant than women[5]. Now, the implementation of the one child policy would imply that fewer than half of all couples would have a surviving son - who could fulfill his duty to his parents and their ancestors. As a result, the one child policy imposes torturous measures on mothers and baby daughters which proposes an issue of social controversy. In addition this causes a higher elderly dependency rate on their family unit even if it compromises of a daughter. Even if there is a son, however, the one-child policy poses a threat to the familial system of social security[6]. Under the one-child policy, the state provides benefits to the child which in-turn supplants the roles of the parents and intervenes in intra-familial exchanges. Consequently, in old-age, the system of mutual obligations will be disturbed and the state will then be responsible for a private system of old age support where they will incur an enormous cost. In addition, a larger family - especially in rural areas provides an organizational advantage as the family is seen as an agricultural workforce. Apart from consumption purposes, a large unit in the countryside is vital to the productive existence of any rural family - irrespective of size. Concerning these problems with the one-child policy, it is much more logical and pragmatic to find a socially acceptable solution that will additionally meet the requirements of the Chinese government. Using the “Future projected trends of population control” presented by the ‘Song group’ we see that through a total fertility rate of 2.0 - the government can maintain a reduction and more importantly, maintain...
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