Most of what we read in the Western press about China’s “one-child policy” is based on myths and silly speculation. Here is a quick primer on the policy and how it came into being:
(1) the actual name in Chinese is not “one child policy”, it’s “family planning policy”. Someone in the West came up with the “one child policy” name as a way to imply that Chinese law would not allow more than 1 child per couple (which is in itself a lie, since people can have more than 1 child, they just have to pay fines).
(2) the actual “family planning policy” was conceived with multiple versions, with 1st version in the 4th 5-year plan of 1970 PRC, which had specific targets for population growth, and went into effect in 1971. The 1st version had no fines at all for having more than 1 child per couple, but instead provided incentives for couples who merely PROMISED to have only 1 child.
The fertility rate in China dropped dramatically from 1970-1979, but it was not enough. China still had a 1% population growth, so the 2nd version of the policy went into effect in 1979-1980, with punitive fines.
(3) What many Western critics call “one-child policy” actually refers to ONLY the 2nd version of the policy, from 1980 onward, while ignoring the previous decade of the policy from 1970-1979. the intent of this was to paint the policy as a complete failure with great cost, because from 1980 onward, China’s fertility rate dropped only slightly, from 2.7 per couple to about 1.9 per couple (babies in lifetime).
However, the 1st version of the policy dropped fertility rate of China from 5.7 per couple to 2.7 per couple in less than 10 years.