China’s One-Child Family Policy…Let’s Make it a Thing of the Past



China administered the one-child policy in 1971 in response to the country’s concerns with rapid population growth due to decline in death rate and increase in elderly population.  The policy has met its intent by reducing at least 250 million population growth by 1999.[1]  However, the policy’s “success” is not without some painful sacrifices.  The Chinese culture of preference for sons has been manifest prenatally through selective abortions as well as postnatally through female infanticide and neglect and abandonment of girls.  The 2005 national intercensus survey showed a significant imbalance in gender ratio where males under age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million, and more than 1.1 million excess births of boys occurred.[2]

Economically, Deng Xiao-ping’s assertion that China “will not be able to develop our economy, and raise the living standards of our people unless birth rate falls rapidly” is a flavor of the past.[3]  For the first time, China’s work force shrank in 2012 in decades and that this trend is likely to continue.[4]

In 2013, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee started loosening the one-child policy (essentially becoming a two-child policy).[5]  While this is a step forward to the right direction, it is still in direct conflict with a fundamental human right [choice to reproduce].  The Chinese government needs to reconsider the notion of “illegal pregnancy” and remove its right to determine how many children a family should have.

Informational Links:


  1. Kane, Penny; Choi, Ching Y. China’s one child family policy.  BMJ 1999; 319:992-994.
  2. Zhu, WX; Lu, L; Hesketh, T. China’s excess males, sex selective abortion, and one child policy: analysis of data from 2005 national intercensus survey.  BMJ 2009; 338:b1211.
  3. China’s one child policy, the policy that changed the world. BMJ 2006; 333:361-362.
  4. Riley, C. The economics of China’s one-child policy.  Information can be found on URL
  5. Re-Education through labor, one-child policy in China. Human Rights Watch; November 17, 2013.  Information can be found on URL

Tags: , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “China’s One-Child Family Policy…Let’s Make it a Thing of the Past”

  1. mollykern2 Says:

    Thank you for this blog post. This is not only a women’s right issue but also a human’s right issue. We know from so many other cultures and societies, that women can change the foreseeable outcome of many countries. By involving and teaching women, economies grow and advance because they spend the most time with the next generation. China lead’s the world in many facets and I think they are going to significantly impact their future by favoring one gender over the other.

    This issue has been well know to me but was highlighted in the book “The Lost Daughters of China”. This blog post inspires me to re-read this book and to continue to remember these girls. Gender ultrasounds have been made illegal in efforts to prevent abortions based on gender. There are many ways around this and you do not have to be highly qualified to be able to determine gender on ultrasounds. I would be interested to know more about China’s abortion policies and their cut off for gestational age. I would also like to know more about what they are doing to prevent abortion based on gender and killing of female infants.

    Thank you again for bringing up such an important issue and providing me with the update on the change of policy in 2013.

  2. azbar2014 Says:

    A very interesting post – I appreciate your comments on the issue of the missing girls in China. I think an additional comment to make on this issue is the long-term effects of the one-child policy as it relates to the demographic shift. That is, what are the implications of the policy as the Chinese population, like most countries, experiences a surge in the elderly demographic? For example, since daughters are usually the primary caregivers for their parents, I could only imagine that there would be a negative impact of the “missing girls” as there would potentially be fewer caregivers for aging parents.

  3. lubnarefai Says:

    Thanks for this blog post. I’ve always found the ramifications of the one-child policy in China fascinating primarily the widening gender gap, which has also become a growing concern in India. Though India does not have a one-child policy the preference by many for male children over females has led to an increasing use of practices such as selective abortions and female infanticide and has led to a wide disparity in its child-sex ratio. In certain regions of India, the rate is as low as 830 girls for every 1000 boys (1). Most troubling, these practices are widespread and primarily used by the educated and wealthy who can afford prenatal gender screening tests. Laws have been passed banning gender screening, however, punishments are not enforced. The widening child-sex ratio in China is a byproduct of the laws passed by its government, while in India it has been caused due only to cultural and social pressures put on females. Though the causes are different both countries will have to deal with the consequences of a generation with a highly skewed sex ratio.


  4. JEJ L Says:

    There’s another side to the story that’s missing here… China’s massive campaign of forced abortions against women who “trangress” the law. A U.S. Congressman shares his experience:

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: