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China's One Child Policy

By Diana-Murzac Apr 29, 2014 2486 Words
THE WORLD’S MOST SEVERE FAMILY PROGRAMME
or
THE HIGH PRICE OF A LOWER POPULATION

When we think about China the things that click in our heads are most probably the great blend of history, culture, and modernity, as well as the gleaming sky scrapers, thousands of factories and their recent economic boom. Along with that, a really memorable thing is that today, China's population is 1,343,239,923 (according to CIA World Factbook), making it the largest of any country in the world. The size of china’s population is both the country's greatest weakness and strength. China is one of the few contemporary countries whose National Government implemented an antinatalist policy. The so-called ‘’One-Child policy’’ is brutally simple: have one child or face the consequences. The policy’s background is deeply enrooted in the Chinese history and their family values. Before 1949, when the Communist party came to power after a revolution ,China was at stage 1 of the demographic transition , having really high birth rates (between 5 and 8 children per family), but meanwhile having high death rates and short life expectancies. In order to strengthen China’s position in the world, transform it into nation-state of significance and increase productivity, the leader Mao Zedong saw a large and healthy population as a prerequisite, therefore the entire country followed a pro-natalist policy in which large families and more children were strongly encouraged. Nevertheless, as a consequence of the Great Leap Forward – a program that was initially designed to push China into industrialization had the opposite effect. Abnormal droughts and floods reduced food production, causing the deaths of many people. Yet, due to improvements made in the medical services, China’s population continued growing. Demographers predicted that the population would reach up to 1.5 billion by the year 2000, resulting in a strain in resources. Terrified of hurting the economic gain that came over the last few decades, politicians’ thought about pushing family planning measures. Still, Mao o was against this, saying that ’’ Population control is a means of killing off the Chinese people without shedding blood’’ and he treated brutally all those who dared to question him and believed that China should control its population. In this new age of modernization, China’s numbers increased by a colossal 71% to 940 million, with no sign of letting up. (Codrington 15). When Mao left power in 1976, the population was rapidly nearing one billion. In 1979, the new leader of China Deng Xiaoping established one of the most simplistic and dramatic attempts to regain control on china’s population, in the form of the so called ’’One-Child Policy. Taking what seemed to be like a straight –forward approach to the population problem, the official statement said: ‘’Women who give birth to one child will be praised; women who give birth to three or more will suffer sanctions. ‘’. This was met with mixed reactions. According to some undertaken surveys taken 9 out of 10 Chinese couples were opposed to the policy. Outside the borders though, foreign family planning commissions praised China for taking action in reducing population. It appeared to be direct, simple and potentially effective. Since the year it was introduced, the controversial policy achieved its main objective- decelerating China’s fast population growth by reducing China’s Total Fertility Rate (the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to life to the end of her childbearing years and bear children in accordance with current age-specific fertility rates (Worldbank)) from 5.81 in 1971 to 2.31 in 1990. The policy has been more successful in urban areas. In 1970, the urban fertility rate was 3.27, and in 1980, one year after the implementation of the policy, it dropped to 1.15 (Ming Tsui 75). However, the policy’s supporters have failed to realize its many fundamental flaws. These will ultimately hold tragic results for China. In the 1980’s the One Child Policy introduced benefits and rewards for those who agreed to limit themselves to one child such as guaranteed additional healthcare subsidies, priority in housing allocation, priority in educational provision, extra land for private farming. If the parents changed their minds and decide to have a second child, all the privileges would be taken away. (Fengying 378). Although the policy is made attractive with incentives and rewards, the reality also brings severe punishments for those who do not comply to the regulations. Punishments may be given to couples which refuse to abort unapproved pregnancies, who give birth to a child being under the legal marriage, or having an approved second child too soon. It was not long before one of the first failures of the one child policy came in the lights. The administration in their haste had failed to see that the one child policy played unfairly against different classes. As Chinese studded professors have noted ‘’rural families struggled under the policy’s restrictions as they needed more farm hands and larger families’’ (Ebenstein 92). They were punished for having their much needed children and the fines that they paid were then gifted to the rich urban couples whom due to their busy lives often stopped reproducing at the one-child limit anyway. Furthermore it was vital that the rural couples gave birth to a son, as a son was invaluable for farm work and would care for his elderly parents, their only means of social security. A girl was completely different. Upon marriage, she would become part of her husband’s family and would never return to help her parents in old age. Limited to only one child, a girl would spell disaster for her rural family. Tragically, the government had overlooked how desperate rural couples could be for a boy and what this meant for girls. After a few years, the policy’s problems became evidence that were ignored. Facing increasing pressure, officials began resorting to new strategies to meet strict birth quotas. Arrest statement was released, mandating cadres to carry out any policy advantageous to the one child policy. Many of these policies were efficient, but devastatingly brutal. One of the most prude and widely employed tactics used by officials were forced abortions were tragically employed on a massive scale to decrease population growth. No one was free from the clutches of abortion. Under the euphemism of technical measures, doctors really hesitated to abort. It was widely known that a woman facing imminent labor could still be forced into a last minute abortion. There was little hope for those who attempted to resist. In 1982 the policy’s coercion picked ad officials frantic to meet the party quotas and policy requirements resorted to brute force. Resisting women were thrown in cells, pressured and often tortured until they surrendered to a heartbreaking abortion. Reports told the mothers who hopelessly fought their captors while being dragged through the operating room, where they had to be sedated. Tragically, the abortion was only the beginning .Many of these women and their husbands would be sterilized through a tubal ligation or vasectomy the day afterwards, denying them their reproductive rights. Government records show that within the year 1983 alone, China carried out an estimated sixteen million abortions or forty-four thousand abortions a day, for every day of the year. There is o question that this helped reduce population levels, but the human cost may far exceed the supposed benefit. Reggie Littlejohn , the leader of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers ,says one case that she’ll never forget is of a young woman who was seven months pregnant without a birth permit, making it an illegal pregnancy ,was walking down the street and was grabbed by family planning cadres , dragged of the street , strapped down to a table, forced to abort the baby that she desperately wanted , and in the end one of the medical personnel came to her with the body of her aborted baby and said ’’ you need to pay for this, so we can dispose the body ‘’.The woman said she didn’t have any money , so they just laid that body right next to her in the bed . It does not matter if you are pro-choice or pro-life in this issue; no one supports forced abortion because it’s not a choice. And this violence might stop, strongly affirms Reggie Littlejohn. Never officially acknowledged by the government, infanticide was one of the grizzliest strategies used as a last resort to keep numbers within quotas. Reports by American and British journalists described this in hospitals, infant skulls being crushed or injected with lethal medicine. Facing the motion, salary cuts or dismissal, doctors had little choice. While effectively lowering population numbers, infanticide was one of the worst human rights violations related to the policy. Furthermore, the hurried enactments of the one child policy had unwittingly created a high-stakes game of birth relates in which couples had only one chance to conceive an overwhelmingly favored boy. A few extreme and desperate parents faced with no other options, drowned, smothered or intentionally starved infant girls in order to gain a second shot at the conception game (L. Fong). These numbers were however never officially recorded. And our only called china’s lost girls, but in a sense, the one-child policy had already dug the graves for these innocent victims, with its spotless planning and plot execution. There were some children who escaped the horrors of abortion and infanticide, only to be placed into an orphanage. Still, the sheer tragedy that is unfolded in these orphanages is almost unknown to the majority of foreigners. Failing to anticipate the increase of abandoned children, the government-run orphanages during the one child policy were often disastrously undermanned. The severe employees had little to no knowledge of child care and subsequently little patience. The children suffered tragically from this. Likely due to neglect, official records in shanghai’s largest government orphanage showed that 9 out of every 10 children die within one year of being admitted. Children were sometimes elected for summery resolution- a euphemism for gradual and deliberate starvation. This was a recorded policy carried out in orphanages, to reduce the number of children needing attention. There was no way the workers could care for all of the children and every one of the summary resolution deaths could easily be twisted in the records to look like a case of natural deaths. No help came for these children even as they lay dying in hungry in their last days. The policy seems simple at first: preventing births will equal a lower population and benefit the nation, however, the formula was much more complex I reality, and today the social costs of the policy are revealing themselves to the world. China’s young population has been suffocated by the draconian grip of the governments, with birth rates that are all time low. Projections show that there will be not nearly enough young workers to support the economy and growing elderly population potentially causing major problems and cancelling any economic benefit from lowering the population. Additionally, the male to-female imbalance was broken by the one child policy. Limited to one child, traditional Chinese sexism soon escalated out of control and causing extreme bias against girls. In most countries with no gender preferences the normal sex ratio is between 103 and 107 boys born for every 100 girls, the higher early mortality rate among boys ensuring a ratio close to 100 in reproductive years. In China there is a very imbalanced ratio one 120 young males to 100 young females. This uneven proportion has turned women into commodities and even today it is increasingly hard for men to find a partner. As a result, women are being forced into marriages and even prostitution, kidnappings being also common. So that becomes a mass problem for sex trafficking. If you think about it, in Bulgaria, there’s an almost 50/50 population from boy to girl, so almost everyone we know will find a life partner. But when the odds are so slim, people have to share wives or steal wives from one another. In the end, the one child policy met its target, if numbers were all that mattered. Many are still supporters of the policy quoting the triumphant population decreases. And by all accounts china has triumphed on the graphs. Beijing reports that the one-child policy 4 hundred million additional births, all of which allegedly would oppose a monumental burden on the nation. Was it worth the cost? The human toll of the one child policy has been tremendous. Coercive abortions still take place daily. CNN reporting in 2011 that each day in china more than 3500 forced and coerced abortions occur. However, the plight of the Chinese people under the policy is still mostly unknown in the world. The social costs of these tragedies will endure for decades to come. There are maybe a few redeeming qualities to the policy. A lower population has been beneficial to the environment, and there are more resources to go around. In addition it can be said that urban single children also called by the media ‘’little emperors’’, free of sibling competition, are benefitting tremendously, receiving stellar attention and great amounts of attention. This is a triumph. In the next 20 years we’ll see talented, intelligent thinkers emerge from the young Chinese generations of today. Ironically, it may be one of these children that rises up in the future to correct the problems created by the one child policy. The crude One-Child Policy needs a fast lessening if not entire abolition. One option believed by sociologists to be less intrusive is that of delaying and spacing the births which over an extended period of time would definitely achieve the same results: increased availability of contraception, female empowerment and greater emphasis on sex education from an early age. In spite of the fact that the Chinese government’s one child policy has seen triumph in the most dramatic reduction of birthrates worldwide, the cost of the Chinese people has far exceeded the gains. With its poor planning, tragic disregard for basic rights and unforeseen social problems, the one child policy proves that such simple approaches to population can never work.

Bibliography:

Chahnazarian, Anouch. "Historical Trends in the Sex Ratio at Birth." Introduction. Baltimore: Department of Population Dynamics The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. 1. Print.

"Planet Geography." Google Books. Web. .

"Politics in China: An Introduction [Paperback]." Amazon.com: Politics in China: An Introduction (9780195335316): William A. Joseph: Books. Web. .

What Are the Success and Flaws of China's One Child Policy and Are There Better Alternatives Available? Yanpei Zhang. Web. .

Ebenstein, Avraham. "The 'Missing Girls' Of China And The Unintended Consequences Of The One Child Policy." Journal Of Human Resources 45.1 (2010): 87-115. EconLit.

Ming Tsui, and Lynne Rich. "The Only Child and Educational Opportunity for Girls in Urban China." Gender and Society, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Feb., 2002), Pp. 74. Sage Publications, Inc. Web.

Susan E. Short, and Zhai Fengying. "Supplemental Content." Studies in Family Planning, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), Pp. 373-387. Population Council. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. .

"Vanessa L. Fong." American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 104, No. 4 (Dec., 2002), Pp. 1098-1109Published. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. .

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