Although more than a week has passed since China put forth its newly tweaked One-Child Policy, echoes of this recent event continue to resonate across the media. Scholars, officials, and citizens in China and beyond have all come to speculate on what a revised family planning policy would mean to the world’s most populous nation.
In a practical sense, it means that families in which one parent is an only child can have two children—soon. Wang Pei’an, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, explained that the new policy will not take effect until it is implemented at local levels. Wang did not provide a concrete time frame as to when this will happen.
The One-Child Policy, instituted in 1980 with the aim of curbing China’s growing population, has only been relaxed twice. The first took place three decades ago in 1984, when exemptions from the policy were granted to ethnic minorities, rural families whose first child is a girl, parents who are both only children themselves, and couples under certain special circumstances. After this change, however, the majority of Chinese parents were still subject to coersive family planning.
Yang Zhenqi and her husband, along with approximately 10 million other families, are now in line for the second wave of One-Child Policy reform. While Yang expresses concern over the financial burden and emotional struggles of raising a second child, she nonetheless embraces the new freedom to expand her family. In fact, according to an online survey conducted on Sina.com last week, two-thirds of respondents who have become eligible for a second child planned to exercise their right.
“I am a single child and my husband isn’t, so I hope this policy can be implemented soon, because I like children and they can keep each other company,” 31-year-old Yu Jing said.
“The next generation is saved from the suffering I went through as a lonely single child,” Backstage Monitor wrote on Weibo, China’s popular social networking site.
“This is the happiest news I have seen this year!” Daddy2010, another microblogger on Weibo, commented.
Yet, for many parents in China, the prospect of a second child can never turn into reality. Tian Lianpiao, whose only son died of cancer at the age of 21, is one of such parents. Without a child to support their post-retirement life, Tian and his wife have no choice but to rely on the country’s inadequate pension system. “I think that the government will not care for us. We’re 50. As we get older, what will happen?” Tian pondered helplessly.
“What will happen?” is the very same question demographers have been asking since China tweaked its One-Child Policy. Gender imbalance has long been one of the most prominent problems facing the country. Official statistics show that 117.7 boys were born for every 100 girls in 2012, while the normal ratio ranges between 103 and 107 boys for every 100 girls. China’s fertility rate has also declined drastically throughout the years. The number of children each woman has fell from 5.8 in 1970 to 1.18 in 2010, a level too low for the population to replenish itself. Sadly, by adding 1 to 2 million new births per year to the existing 16 million, the recent policy change would hardly be enough to resolve the above demographic crises. “It is high time for the country to scrap its One-Child Policy,” demographer Yi Fuxian concluded.
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Nor is a minor adjustment to the One-Child Policy sufficient to remedy China’s weakening economy. Last year, for the first time in recorded history, the working-age population in China shrank. If this trend continues, the nation will lose 67 million workers between 2010 and 2030, whereas its elderly population will swell from 110 million 210 million over the same period. In order to bridge the gap between a dwindling workforce and an aging society, the Chinese government is planning to raise the minimum retirement age, a change opposed by nearly 70% of Chinese people. For decades, the leaders of China have failed to realize that abolishing the One-Child Policy is the only viable solution to stop the nation’s economic downturn. As long as the 33-year-old family planning system remains in place, “the People’s Republic has merely traded one population time bomb for another,” a reporter from TIME magazine noted.
Regardless of what demographers and economists have predicted about the One-Child Policy, the human suffering rendered by this brutal legislation is an indisputable fact. The world shall not forget the stories of mothers like Liu Xinwen and Zhong Xuexiang, who have become victims of China’s ongoing forced abortions and sterilizations. According to Chinese officials, the One-Child Policy has successfully averted 400 million extra births.
Mao Qun’an, spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, recently said: “We can say that China, through its family planning policy, has controlled its rapid population growth and eased the pressures that population imposes on the natural environment…But we are also very clear that, in order to obtain these achievements, the country’s people have made a great sacrifice.”
In response to this deeply ironic statement, one cannot help but ask: Do the leaders of China really understand the sacrifice their people have made? If so, when will they start to care? Unless the One-Child Policy is abolished altogether, these questions will continue to perplex humanity for generations to come.
LifeNews Note: Luke T. writes for All Girls Allowed.