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The Single Child Policy In China

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3537 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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In 1978-1979 the Chinese government installed an ambitious program of market reform following the economic stagnation of Cultural Revolution. In mid 70-80 china was home of quarter of the world’s population who were having just 7% of world land. More than two third of the population were under the age of 30 years. The baby boomers of the year 1950-1960 were entering their reproductive years. So it was getting important to control the population for the economic reform and to an improvement in living standards, so they introduced one child policy. (Massachusetts medical Society, 2005)

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This policy consists of different set of rules and regulations .government governing the size of families, sometimes late marriages, child bearing and family planning. This also restricts to couple to one child for one couple but it still allow few cases like twins, rural couple , ethnic minorities and couples who are both only one children themselves. By this policy china controlled more than 250 million births between 1980 and 2000(BBC September, 2012) and about 400 million by 1979-2011(People Daily online, October 2011)

This policy is a controversial issue within and outside the china, because how it was implemented, good and bad consequences of the negative social concerns. Due to this policy there were other problems and concerns rose which are against human rights. Forced abortions were increased, female infanticide and under reporting of female birth. These are the main reason of gender imbalance in china, but still after the survey done by Pew Research Center roughly 76% of people living in china accept this policy.(Pew Research Centre ,2012)

As now we know about the policy and its implementation, merits and demerits, so now I have to take a clear stand is that policy is ethically justifiable or not and I will go with that is this policy is not ethically justifiable but there are a lot of examples which are proven that with this policy china has controlled population of country so I will be comparing both of the sides of the policy with final conclusion against this policy.

First I will discuss about the demerits of over population. Over population is a condition where an organism number exceed the carrying capacity. This is a direct link between human population and its environment. The main reason for the over population is increase in birth and decline in mortality rate. The current population of china is 1319175364 which make china the first most populated country of the world. (US Census Bureau, 2012) China represents a full 20% of world population so every one in every five people on the earth is a Chinese.(Washington Institute of China Studies ,2007) So due to over population because other different problems also like:

Healthy Living – this is the one of the main concern of the people who is living there because the health resources are limited like fresh air, fresh pure clean water, and greenery which people all people are not getting.

Equal opportunities-people living in china to them when comes to access some of the things like public sector jobs, examinations few people don’t get those opportunities because either they are not rich enough to support or some other factors.

Access to medical treatment- as china is growing up faster the amount of people getting sick and getting congenital disease are also increasing which is also directly related to the cost of treatment, government can’t provide those expensive treatments to everyone so a lot of poor people die because of no access of hospital or clinics.

Controlling big population- it is not an easy job for the government of china to control 1.5 billion people; police always have hard time when there is any riot, national events going on.

Traffic problem. Due to over population need of vehicles on the road is increasing which is creating big heavy traffic jam on the road, and government always try hard to provide public transport but due to more number of passengers travelling that also become hard.

Good quality higher education- As families had more number of children at their home which sometimes is also a problem i.e. children can’t get good higher education reason behind this is education nowadays is expensive and parents can’t afford all their kids the same education.

Violation of human rights- like different activities happening often in china which violate human rights like female feticide, gang rapes, abortions.(Bridgeport.edu ,2012)

So now I will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of one child policy.


The growth of the population decreases: if there was no one child policy in china the population of china must be 2.4 billion today.

By this Chinese people are getting more benefits like: Free/cheap health checkups.

Their kids are getting god or best education.

Women get extra three month maternity leave.

Parents have good bond with children, like it will be easy to divide time with one child and it makes it easier to know each other and needs.


They don’t have any siblings and there is nothing like cousins called in china because everyone is child of the family.

Forced Abortions: As we all know abortion are legal in china but having forced abortion is against human rights.

Female Infanticide: People kill their daughter because they think they will have only one child and if that’s a female then who will take family business and bring up family to generations.

87% of all married women use contraception and abortion which is also not healthy for the female’s health condition.

Ethical Perspectives

The one child policy raises many ethical concerns one individuals own liberty, collective rights and state sovereignty. We all understand that will less population there will less environment degradation and pollution but according to me whose rights are more important individual or collective? This one child policy in china asks questions towards the individual rights and collective rights in the community. As per Locke’s view in any of the society an individual have the basic human right and more important their negative liberty and rights or the freedom to have choices for self development without other interference.(William Uzgalis “John Locke”,2006)

This one child policy provide community growth which may provide higher quality of life i.e. can be serve malnutrition, good care of medical illness and social and economic problems are uncommon.

Communitarians: As we all know china is a communist country so they have only one people’s party ruling the whole big nation. The communitarian argument is derived from Jean Jacques Rousseav “Communitarian argue the survival of the community must be protected because individual member depend on it for their self identity, the organization of collective action and the production of public good’s” So this lighten the view that state of nature as they have not yet developed the capacity to reason . So a communitarian would for the individual thinks, thoughts, individual rights and autonomy for the benefits of the community. (Modern China, 465, 1987)

Utilitarian Approaches:

It is an ethical theory in which there are basically more happiness and reduced suffering which is based on the word utility. So as per china one child policy people’s behavioral choices are counted and those choices reflect their course of action. By increasing the pleasure and minimizing the pain china is using utilitarian approach perfectly.

International Human Rights:

China’s one child policy is seems to be based on utilitarian approach. They argue that policy is installed according to the fairness standards as every family is entitled to have one child and in addition to this those families are getting financial incentive like bonus, better housing options and three months maternity leave which as per rule to international provisions of human rights but on the other side as per policy only one child is allowed per couple so communitarian would be against of those who claim individual reproductive right against the policy of single child.(American Political Science Review,2001)

Western & Asian Preferences of Individual Rights:

China one child policy is mostly offended by the violation of human rights and laws. They argue that as western countries have their own official languages as a mean to protecting communal harmony and Identity similarly Chinese government has the right to implement of population related policies is the responsibility of each and every country and should take a stand into account the economic, social and environmental diversity with respect to all religious and ethical values at international conference on population & development in (cairo 1994). This policy also disturbs the fundamental human right of every couple to decide freely the number and spacing of their children. Chinese government relative this policy as “Duty to act responsibly in a manner which will benefit their family and community as whole” (Population and Development review, 1996)

Success and flaw of China’s One Child Policy

China’s population is both the country’s greatest weakness and strength. China is world 3rd largest economy and 2nd largest exporter. The more population in china makes it cheap labor which attracted a lot of foreign investment. This policy accelerated china’s economic growth in past 2 decades which also helped to create highly educated skilled and more efficient work force.

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It was reported in 2001, there were almost 20,000 forced abortions and sterilization occurred to the people of Huai ji in Guangdong province of china because those people were not following the rules of this policy.(Telegraph Media Group,2012) After that in 2002 china stopped the physical force to force for the abortion, but still there are news on regular basis of abortion and violence. Even there is news about the killing of the babies during the pregnancy of eight months or it’s more horrifying of killing of baby during labor in birth canal or immediately after birth.

Tons of thousands of children with birth defects, disabilities are handed over to state funded orphanages that often have poor facilities which now become house of adoption of girls for the rich western people. In 2001 there was official 55,000 adoptions registered. So what do you think are these children guaranteed a better life but I am pretty much sure that they will lose all traces of their Chinese identity? (Wei Guo Zhang, 2006)

In addition to this one child policy also disturb the male -female birth rate ratio. The sex ratio in main land china is 118: 100. So this means there are 18 extra boys for every 100 girls born which compared to global natural baseline of 103:100. Even the state population and family planning commission admit this problem and think this will create big problem in coming future i.e. finding partner by the time they will reach adulthood or reproductive age. As according to survey there will be 30 million more men than women in 2020. (BBC, 2012)

Since 90’s there is other problem rising weather this single child will be over pampered. There have been seen many over pampered children in society with poor social communication and cooperation skills.

As in upper text I mentioned about the over pampered children, so now here I am going to focus on the policy positive and negative effects of single child . As per (Quoss and Zhao,1995) parents are usually the most important socialization agents in their young age. This gives an impact on their child to learn about social relationship. In addition to this parent- child relationship are complicated cultural, ideological, political, economic and social factor but main can be psychological, cultural and structural to understand parent child relationship. It is assumed those children are the empty vessels which are filled with parent’s socially defined values. So mostly children learn from parent’s attitude and behavior. If child is not recognized as an active social person this means he is influenced by parents. These changes in the family structure and size have some major effects i.e. shorting of family tree, weakening of cooperation in the groups and the changes in the way how parents treat their children.

According to Cardwell wealth- Flow theory (1982, 1976) the wealth from younger to older generations is related to high fertility rate same as wealth flow from the older to the younger generation is related to low fertility rate. But in China they have only one child there is nothing like that seen which either improve or spoil the parent -child relation. The nation’s one child policy has lead to the reduced number of births which have highlighted children value in the family and caused more flow of family resources towards that only child. China’s successful implementation of population control policy shortened the way to Cordwell’s equilibrium of wealth flow and birth rate declination.

Population and Socio Economic Development

This over growing population even one child will be creating big problems by 2040. There will be four main challenges faced by Chinese population.

Agriculture : Food challenge: It will be a problem of producing sufficient grain for the expending population, as country is growing faster, people are moving to cities and no one is doing more agriculture and because of population explosion there will not be enough spaces to grow crops which will give Chinese community a very hard time in upcoming years.

Employment Challenge: It is one of the main signals to economic performance which is correlated with income distribution, poverty and social stability. Before rural people used to depend on agriculture but now it’s hard to depend as living standards are getting high and 40% of rural labor are not fully utilized or they are under employed and need to be re employed.(Taylor and Banister 1991 ; Shen and Spence 1995)

Urbanization challenge: fast pace industrialization and urbanization will be a drastic change in rural-urban population shift. The speed of urbanization was very slow in 1970’s as compared to other developing counties (shen, 1994). A large number of towns and small cities are immerged to bigger cities. Old cities are rapidly expanding .Shanghai. increased its urban area from 141 to 230 square kilometer; rapid urbanization resulted in the arable land available

Homosexuality In china Associated with One Child Policy.

There is also one other problem arising in china because having a single child and that child being homosexual. Homosexuality is legal in china since 1997, but this created a lot of problems in Chinese local community. Chinese couples try and do a lot of efforts to have a son in their family and what if that son is homosexual that can be a big major tragedy in the family. Many gay and lesbian commit suicide because it’s not much common in there.

Zheng estimates there is about 27-30 million homosexual people living in china from which 18-20 million are gay man and 9 to 10 million are lesbian women. So homosexuals are not accepted by social customs at home or at work place. This creates two other different problems:

They don’t have freedom to enjoy their personal life -> It is seen that gay man and gay women get married to each other as ‘homowives’ under a formal union they have normal marriages but allowing each other to conduct their homosexual relation outside.

Many stories came up how gay man starting loving each other. some said they can’t find the right female partner so they changed their self to homosexuality or bisexual and other say the girls don’t want to leave parental house as they are the only daughter who want to stay with family.( The New York Times,2012 )

The Effect of China one child policy 30 years

To control the population china government and Chinese people did very hard work and much sacrifice to limit the population growth with one child per family. So in condition to hold this population growth there is a heavy reliance on long term contraception with IU device and sterilizations together accounting for more that they don’t have any other options except which they heard from health workers recommend for family planning. This helped in 25% decreased in abortion rates.

This policy is reduction in the total fertility rate before between 1970-1979 the fertility was 5.9 to 2.9 but after this it’s less stabilized at approximately 1.7.

There are some signals that may be the traditional thinking for boys will change. As a survey done by National family and Reproductive Health reports say 37 percent of young urban women said they have no preference with the sex of the kid either its male or female but on other side 45 percent said the ideal family is one boy and one girl.

Ratio of old age Dependency

The rapid decrease in birth rate with stable and improved life it led to increased proportion of old people in the community. In 1965 the population of 65 year old people was 5% in 1982 which now is 7.5 percent which is expected to be 15 percent by 2025. (World Bank, 2012) That’s one reason in urban areas the couple who themselves are single children are allowed to have other second kid.

The future of china’s one child policy:

The Chinese government is facing an important challenge, first will be the need to balance the basic population right of reproduction with population growth. 10 million people are adding to Chinese population every year which is equal to the population of Belgium.

Relaxation of this policy can be considered because of baby bomber are getting older, but increased wealth and freedom is not allowing government to relax this policy.

End of Cheap Labor: Professor Cai Feng- a Chinese labor economist estimated there will a downfall in the labor force by 1.5 percent points by 2015 and will decrease further in 2016-2020. A fast pace decline of the labor force will cause shortages and rapid increase in wages which will be weaken the china’s export industry in the international marked effecting economic growth .(BBC,2012)


The people republic if china and its one child policy remains an international concept as in means of regulation, human rights, birth and fertility, national duties, ethics and principles. In 30 years of this policy china have created dramatic results of controlling population and limiting total fertility rate at 1.7 births per women. It also helped to control the problems which can be occurred with over population. On the other side this policy also created drastic effect on highly unbalanced sex-ratio between male and female. Many couples can’t find the suitable match for each other. There is an increase in female infanticide and more use of contraceptive methods. An increased social and economic demand on small families due to aging is also common. According to Xinhua the national press agency of china ” china have paid a lot of political and social cost for this policy but still it resulted in social conflict, high administrative cost and let to gender imbalance too(Xinhua, 2012).

My reaction to this one child policy is that they should not make it very strict at the starting. Second child in family bring the fine of $3500 which is almost equal to the income of 10 year of a poor farmer. Many Chinese women commit suicide under the pressures of one child policy(Amnesty International,2012) . Some rich people who can afford $3500they have two kids in family which is not equal to other resident of china. For poor if they can’t pay the fine they have to pay their fines with 200kg of rice. Families in Guangzi province are afraid of breaking rules because they are already poor and this gives them hard time paying the fine. This is the reason of disturbance in sex ratio. I think Chinese government should educate people to the benefits of having lesser children but not to force them for abortion. Couples should have their own freedom they whether they want children or not.

The Government should educate people and promote to have more female babies to equal the uneven sex ratio. There is a high divorce rate involving women whose one child turn out to be a girl however the laws have changed by those women have to suffer physical assault at home.

It is clearly see there are many advantages and disadvantages of china’s one child policy but when it comes to health, law and ethics it is not justified because of many dilemmas on the ethical ground.


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