China Announces Relaxation of Infamous ‘One-Child’ Policy

Written by Hayes Brown

China has opted to ease its “one-child” policy, which for decades has limited the birthrate of the world’s most populous nation, according to newly released details from the country’s most recent meeting of top leaders.

According to media reports, the final document produced during the Plenum declared that China would launch a major reform to its one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. The policy already exempts those Chinese who still dwell in rural communities, who can have two so long as the first one is a girl, as well as Chinese citizens who aren’t members of the Han ethnic group. Given that the Han make up 92 percent of the population, the number of minorities having two children places them in no danger of losing their majority status.

The alternative for city-dwellers who wish to skirt the one-child policy is to pay a penalty — known as a “social maintenance fee” — to gain a second child access to the household registration documents, or “hukou,” which entitle residents to subsidized health, housing and education. That fee can range from 5,000 yuan ($820) to as much as 1.3 million yuan ($213,000) in the case of one couple. Not everyone can afford to pay such a steep rate, resulting in situations like that of Li Xue, unable to attend school as a child and forced to use her mother and sister’s identity to purchase medicine.

Since its inception in 1979, the policy has been used as a warning to the West over the otherness that China represents and the repression of the Communist government. Legislators have issued statements over it countless times on the floor of the House and Senate and op-eds describing the brutality of the policy in practice. State-pressured abortions are often the result of accidental pregnancies, a fact that abortion activists in the United States have not been shy to seize upon.

The policy has also resulted in a huge skew towards male children over female children, as families use various methods — such as selective abortion or abandoning female babies to their fate — to ensure their only child is a son. The results of that imbalance, and how high it is compared to the rest of the world, is illustrated in this chart:

china birth rate gender

Credit: Business Insider

The new change will make roughly 10 million couples eligible to have a second child, according to one-child policy expert Wang Feng. Wang estimates about half of those who can will do so in the next few years, according to The Economist’s Gady Epstein. That’s sure to have an effect on raising China’s birthrate, which had already been falling prior to the policy’s enactment, and has been below the 2.1 births per woman needed to replace a population.

birth rate world bank 2011

Credit: Google

The pending spike in births is sure to help China prevent what some experts had called a pending demographics disaster, with the number of elderly skyrocketing and not enough young to care for them. Economic concerns also likely played into the decision, as labor rates in China have been on the rise recently, cutting into China’s competitive edge on the world market. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, migrant workers’ average pay rose to 2,049 yuan ($322) a month in 2011. The 16 percent annual labor cost rise in Zhejiang province has led to investment in robotics as a way to replace workers who are quickly becoming too expensive.

The news broke on Friday through the state-run Xinhua’s news site, that the change was decided during the Third Party Plenum of the ruling Communist Party, a rare gathering in which economic decisions are made regarding China’s future. While earlier overviews of the decisions made at the conference held last weekend had been made public, only now are details beginning to emerge.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Flickr


Andrew Pawley
Past Member 4 years ago

I support humane and sensible population control. The Chinese system was not perfect by any means but the goal of stabilising population numbers remains a good one for them and indeed the rest of us.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K4 years ago

In the 1960's the international banksters feared a large population of awakened people and at the same time wanted to enslave them. So they had the UN create a meeting with the preeminence of greenies to come up with ways to reduce our worlds population, results were
1 the American military and its allies would engage in continuous wars,
2 medical system would do it bit by prescribing drugs that would do no good and all effected cures were to be banned or actively discouraged.
3 Birth control pills to be encouraged, as they led to sterility and profits for IVF.
4 Now they have introduced inoculations for teenage girls under guise of protecting against cervical cancer but really they introduce sterility.
So why has China backed out of the scheme. Its my belief that they feel threatened as a growing nation to find that the floods and earthquakes from American HAARP technology have killed more of their people than originally estimated, so the gloves are off, so to speak and they now realise the threat being posed by the One world order promoters.

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare4 years ago


Margaret Goodman
Margaret G4 years ago

Last I heard, USA welfare families have fewer children than USA non-welfare famiies.

Also, I thought that USA welfare mothers were being strongly encouraged (forced?) to have jobs outside the home as a result of "Welfare to Work" laws starting in the Clinton administration. Has this changed?

Mary L.
Mary L4 years ago

Why do you describe this as infamous? Al Capone is infamous. The Wall Street-Bank rape of the American people is infamous. Hitler ordering the murder of more than 12 million people is infamous.

This was a radical attempt to stop population growth in China. It went horribly awry because of cultural prejudice, but it worked and continues to do so.

Really need to re work that headline.

Susan B.
Susan B4 years ago

I wish people would realize that we are destroying the world by increasing populations like we pop popcorn. Although I feel it is NOT the government's right to tell us how many children we can have, we should use our heads and not have 6 kids. Unfortunately, when the government pays to take care of them, to buy them food, to give them healthcare and to give them a free place to live 6 kids are worth it. Pathetic.

Past Member 4 years ago

I totally echo your sentiments Beatriz B.

Chu s.
Chu s4 years ago

As Chinese,what I can say is Nothing.

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Clara Hamill
Clara Hamill4 years ago

I'm not saying people should have five kids but try tax cuts and bonuses for people to not have kids.