Jump directly to the Content



One-Child Policy Tweak Fails in China

There are 116 boys to 100 girls nationwide. Forced abortions, sterilizations are still widespread.
One-Child Policy Tweak Fails in China
Image: Courtesy, K.Belletje
Birth propaganda in China--the caption reads, 'I got my 'only-child certificate' '

Two years ago, China relaxed its controversial one-child policy, allowing up to 11 million couples have a second child. But only 470,000 babies were born as a result, representing just 10 percent of eligible couples.

In mid-March, Premier Li Keqiang in a once-per-year meeting with journalists admitted that the reform had failed to trigger a surge in births and top leaders would consider further revision to the policy. Officials may even consider a two-child policy.

But Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said in an online commentary, “The one-child policy does not need to be reformed. It needs to be abolished. We demand an end to government sponsored forced abortion, forced sterilization and forced contraception. The entire, vast network of family planning police must be dismissed. The women of the world will be free only when the women of China are free.”

Support for ending the one-child policy also comes from All Girls Allowed (AGA), based in Boston. It is one of the leading Christian groups fighting gendercide and sex-selective abortions. The AGA website hosts an online petition to pressure Washington policy-makers to take decisive action against China’s one-child policy, based on its violation of human rights. “There is no evidence that enforcement of the One-Child Policy is abating,” the petition said. “While [Washington] cannot control China’s domestic policy, you can call the Chinese government to account.”

Decades after its first implementation in 1980, the one-child policy has resulted in widespread sex-selective abortion. This has created a gender imbalance of too many boys (116 to 100 girls), and a generational imbalance of too few workers supporting retirees. China's population imbalance has become severe with 37 million more men than women in China. Second, the nation’s workforce is rapidly aging and there are not enough young workers to support retirees.

“China is quickly turning gray on an unprecedented scale in human history, and the Chinese government, even the whole Chinese society, is not prepared for it,” Yi Fuxian, author of A Big Country with an Empty Nest, told Bloomberg news.

Credible estimates reveal there have been 336 million abortions, 196 million sterilizations, and 403 million intrauterine devices (IUDs) inserted since 1971 in China. For decades, local officials forced women to abort their children, be sterilized, or have IUDs inserted. “Chinese women cannot stand up against forced abortion without risking detention, for themselves and for their families,” said Littlejohn on International Women’s Day in early March.

Inside China’s government, there is no sign of anxiety about the birth dearth. Yang Wenzhuang, National Health and Family Planning Commission, said in Chinese media that it could take five or more years for the nation’s “full birth capacity to be released.” State projections estimate 1 million more children will be born in 2015 than in 2014.

“Parents are more reasonable when it comes to whether to have a child.” said Yang. With changes in the birth policy, China’s population could be as large as 1.4 billion by 2020. Yang said China wishes to keep the rate of birth at a “proper level” and avoid a baby boom.

Another overlooked concern inside China is the one-child policy’s impact on the mental health of Chinese women. “[The] policy has harmed women’s psyches: China is one of only two countries where women commit suicide at greater rates than men do. The ratio of female-to-male suicide in China is three-to-one,” commented Bridget L. Fay in the National Review in early March.

Support Our Work

Subscribe to CT for less than $4.25/month

Read These Next