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One-Child Policy Vs. Western Civilization

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Zahir Mohammed


SOCU 420

Professor Brown

One-Child Policy VS. Western Familism

        The Earth currently has a population of 7,385,034,415 and counting. And China contributes about a seventh of that total population. (Worldometers) What is truly remarkable about that figure is that nearly every Chinese family has one to two children in it; that is a lot of families. The reason that families are like this is because of two policies that were enforced by the Chinese government back in the late 1970’s. Deng Xiaoping put forth what was called the “open door” policy which resulted in earth-shaking changes in political and economic reform for Chinese society. (Xiao-Tian) The one-child policy was the second policy put in place and had pretty much guaranteed a further decline in China’s already decreasing fertility rate. “It is within this context of economic, political and demographic changes that a generation of nearly 150 million only children emerged, grew up and were socialized, and helped to bring about important changes in family structure.” (Xiao-Tian) The Chinese government began to implement the one-child policy at a national level in 1979 where 6.1 million couples that gave birth to a single child were given “One Child Honorary Certificates” that served as a sign of pledging to not give birth to any more children. Early in the 1980’s, the number of one-child families began to increase of a rate at around 4.4 million annually. By the mid 1980’s, the government decided it best to make slight adjustments to the policy to where rural families who had given birth to a girl were allowed to bear an additional child. The rate of single-child families in rural areas began to slow down while the rate of single-child families in urban areas began to steadily climb. Because of this generation of one-child families, there was major influence in how the entire realm and aspect of family life was treated in China, especially urban China. (Xiao-Tian) However, there were some major issues that came about because of China’s one-child policy.

        The first of those issues would be the amount of female infanticide that had taken place over the years due to families wanting to be able to carry on their family name through the birth of a son. Because of China’s nationwide policy on population control, families would often make the difficult decision of killing their daughter in preference to having a son. Between the years 1969 and 2015, 1.83 million infants have been killed in China with more than half being girls. (WorldBank) Although it is a rare case that families would actually go that far nowadays, it was still an issue that was only further spearheaded by this one-child policy. Fortunately, the Chinese government put a few laws in place as a prevention to female infanticide. The Woman’s Protection Law prohibits any form of infanticide and bans discrimination towards women who choose to keep female babies. The Maternal Health Care Law forbids the use of technological advances, like ultra-sound machines, to establish the sex of fetuses, so as not to pre-determine the fate of female infants or encourage selective abortion. (BBC)

        Socially speaking, the one-child policy tends to cause only-children to feel a sense of discontent and anxiety when dealing with what is deemed as regular social interaction. Only-children will tend to keep to themselves since having a lack of a sibling means that they have no one to interact or play with. Chinese children enter Kindergarten at a much younger age to combat this problem in hopes that they will put forth their own effort into socially interacting with other only-children. (Chen) Another social issue that comes with the one-child policy is that parents of single-children tend to expect much more from their child both in academics and in their future careers. This then causes these parents to become overly protective and defensive of their children from socializing as it may serve as a distraction from their child’s studies. (Chen) Another alarming social issue when dealing with the one-child policy is the differential in gender balance. There are more males than females in China and this has resulted in less brides to be wed and has instead turned human trafficking into a lucrative business for traffickers in China. (Wood) They deal mostly with people in Vietnam and Cambodia for potential buyers and sellers seeking brides.

        As for political pressures, the one-child policy in China has had both positive and negative outcomes. On the positive side, the government has allowed those with handicapped children or families who bare girls the opportunity to have a second child. Also, those who follow the one-child policy are graciously gifted a One-Child Certificate that entitles them to interest-free loans, longer maternity leave, and cash bonuses. (Morelle) There were benefits to families on either side of the coin which meant that the Chinese government knew that their original plan of having only a single child was not working as they had intended. Another way that the government was relieved of some pressure was that there were many births that were prevented because of their one-child policy. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, 400 million births were prevented which the government would not have been able to sustain. The head of the bureau, Ma Jiantang stated that “the momentum of fast growth in our population has been controlled effectively thanks to the family planning policy.” (Morelle) That is a whole lot of births considering the already staggering amount of population that China contains. However, stabilization in regards to population of China is being threatened due to the one-child policy. A census done in 2013 showed a downward trending fall in the average population growth rate. (Wood) What that same census further showed was women were having 1.4 children rather than the country’s needed 2.1 for a necessary population stabilization. (Wood) This means that there is more pressure put upon government pensions and healthcare systems within China. Parents who do have extra children end up facing fines by the government. Those who are unable to pay these fines may have their homes confiscated and assets seized. (Wood) Because of this, some families will sometimes end up selling their children in order to save their homes from being taken. This has led to a serious child trafficking problem in China and not much has been done to make a drastic, noteworthy change regarding it. There have also been some rather disturbing allegations of the Chinese government forcefully committing abortions on women who are much past the legal abortion limit of 24 weeks. In June of 2012 an investigation was put forth regarding a woman by the name of Feng Jianmei who had forcefully received three injections to her abdomen which resulted in the abortion of her baby; she was seven months pregnant. (Wood) This incident garnered international attention when a photograph of Jianmei and her dead baby had gone viral on the Internet. Because of this international pressure, the government had to settle out of court when the investigation was brought forth.



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