Consequences of China's One Child Policy

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HIST HP 264-002|
Consequences of China’s One-Child Policy|


In the mid 1950’s, China’s population grew rapidly under Mao Zedong. He felt that the only way for China to get back on its feet was to become industrialized and that China would need manpower for this industrialization. “Even if China's population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production," Mao Zedong proclaimed in 1949. "Of all things in the world, people are the most precious." The population grew so dramatically that the country’s resources were becoming scarce. In 1979, just three years after Mao’s death, the “One-Child Policy” took effect. This law was implemented by Deng Xiaoping to curb the population growth. The original intent for this policy was economically based. There had been a great famine, in which many people lost their lives, and China wanted to prevent this from happening again. There was not enough suitable farmland to provide food for the entire population nor was there enough water. They wanted to reduce the demand for natural resources, maintain a steady labor rate, and reduce unemployment caused by surplus labor. China’s justification for this policy was based on their support of the Marxist theory of population growth. This policy has been called the largest population control effort in history. The policy is very controversial mainly due to the way enforcement has been carried out. While the policy itself has achieved its main goal, by preventing over 400 million births from 1979-2010, the long-term consequences for China will be great. The one-child policy has many regulations. China maintains that this a voluntary policy but the enforcement of the policy has proven otherwise. I will touch briefly on a few of the most important points of the policy. The policy states that both the husband and wife must both practice birth planning. Birth outside of marriage is not allowed. Couples are permitted to have one child. Late marriage and late births are encouraged. Couples who follow the policy and have only one child will be given a certificate to receive rewards and preferential treatment. Those who refuse to follow the policy and give birth to a second child will be fined from the month that the child is born. The wages or annual income of both husband and wife will be decreased by ten to twenty percent for seven years. Regarding pregnancy not adherent to the plan, both husband and wife will be imposed a fine monthly during the period of pregnancy. If the pregnancy is terminated, the fine imposed will be returned. China’s system in caring for the elderly after retirement is simple. The eldest son is generally responsible. In earlier days, this was not such a terrible burden. However, with China’s one-child policy, many families find themselves in quite a predicament when their one child is a girl. A girl is traditionally groomed to be married. When the time comes for her to marry, she leaves her family and becomes a part of her husband’s family. She then becomes responsible for helping her husband care for his aging parents. Thus, her own family will be left without support and care. Even in cases where the family’s only child is a son, the “4-2-1 Problem” is often created. There is an increased burden on the one child to provide for his aging parents and grandparents, in addition to his immediate family. (The 4-2-1 policy refers to 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and 1 child.) If personal savings, pensions or state welfare fail and the single child cannot care for the older adult relatives, the older generations would face a lack of resources and necessities. This is just one possible consequence to China’s one-child policy. When mothers become pregnant for the first time, some manage to have an ultrasound to determine the sex of the baby. This is illegal in China but still happen none-the-less. If the parents learn that this first child...
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