China's One-Child Policy: A History

China’s One-Child Policy: A History

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:

To understand Chen’s case, it is important to have a broader perspective on that policy objectively.  Lawrence W. Green wrote the following abstract for an article in the Journal of Public Health Policy which provides that:

After years of urging China to take more aggressive action to control its population, the United States government withdrew support from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities on the grounds that that agency supported China’s new policy. The policy provided for the achievement of a norm of one child per couple through economic incentives and rewards, and family planning services including abortion. Charges of forced abortion in the Western press led to withdrawal of the U.S. funds by the Agency for International Development. In this analysis of the policy and its implementation, the alleged incidents of forced abortion were found to be isolated cases of overzealous local functionaries trying to meet quotas. Publicity and public education surrounding the policy and campaigns to implement it provide the best assurances that most people would know that they have options and should not be subjected to coercion for abortion. The Chinese government has implemented new safeguards to prevent and punish cases of attempted abortion against the will of couples. 1

That perspective must be understood, for Western press frequently bashes China whenever the “one-child” policy makes news. For example, in The Telegraph’s latest article about Chen, it referred to the Chinese family planning policy as:

China’s draconian family planning policy

The use of negative emotive words like ‘draconian’ to describe everything ‘China’ or ‘Chinese’ in fact fits the larger pattern of a Collective Defamation in the Western press.

(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.

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