The Economic and Social Impacts of China's One Child Policy

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In 1949, the Communists came to power in China. Between 1949 and 1984 only three population censuses were conducted. Very little information from the 1953 and 1964 censuses was released by the Chinese government. Western researchers and demographers pieced together information to help create a picture of China’s population. According to these researchers and demographers, China’s population in 1949 was approximately 541.7 million. By 1982, the population had nearly doubled to 1008.2 million. A series of events between 1958 and 1961 lead to one of the greatest famines in China’s history and caused the Chinese government to begin thinking about population control. Drought, floods, and monsoon along with political and economic problems created by the failure of the Great Leap Forward came together to create one of the greatest human tragedies in China’s history. The Chinese government reported 15 million deaths, but according to Frank Dikötter, a historian who was given access to China’s archives from the period, the death toll was closer to 45 million. In response to growing concerns over what an enormous and growing population would mean to China’s future, the government established the first national Family Planning Office in 1964. The Family Planning Office was put in charge of China’s fertility reduction programs. In the beginning, their efforts were focused mainly in urban centers. The programs spread to rural China after Chairman Mao declared the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1969. Early efforts focused on a media campaign encouraging Chinese couples to marry at later ages, postpone starting families for several years after marriage, and having fewer children. The campaign was a success, but decreases in population growth began to level off by the late 1970s. It was at this time, 1979, that China’s One Child Policy (OPC) was introduced. The One Child Policy limited couples from China’s majority Han population to one child,...
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