The China Development Research Foundation, a government run Chinese think tank, has issued a recommendation calling for a change in the country’s infamous one-child policy. This call for a “roll back” marks the first time since the policy’s institution in 1980 that any government agency has publicly pushed the state on its compulsory and oftentimes coercive family planning policy.
The CDFR issued copies of its paper to the state sponsored media and will be making official reports widely available later in the month. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the foundation recommends a two-child policy be put in place in certain provinces starting this year and a nationwide two-child policy by 2015. By 2020, the CDFR recommends that all birth limits be dropped.
Xinhua cites the report as saying, “China has paid a huge political and social cost for the policy, as it has resulted in social conflict, high administrative costs and led indirectly to a long-term gender imbalance at birth.”
China’s one child policy was instituted in 1980 as temporary solution to curb the country’s rapidly rising population. The ethnic Han majority are limited to one child per couple. The stated goal was 0% population growth by the year 2000.
The consequences of the policy have been far reaching and impacted a wide array of areas. Demographers contend that the policy has worsened the country’s aging crisis by limiting the size of the young labor pool that must support the more populous older generations as they retire. Additionally, the policy has resulted in a decidedly unsustainable sex ratio as many families will abort a female child in order that their only child may be male. The result is, according to demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, a biologically unnatural excess of males (the ratio in China is 123 boys born for every 100 girls). Dr. Eberstadt adds, “The ‘rising value of women’ can have perverse and unexpected consequences, including increased demand for prostitution and an upsurge in the kidnapping and trafficking of women (as is now being witnessed in some women-scarce areas in Asia, as reported by Mara Hvistendahl in her new book Unnatural Selection).”
The brutal methods by which the policy has been enforced by family planning officials has impacted women and families all across China. The international spotlight recently focused on the issue as the escape of activist Cheng Guangcheng from house arrest dominated the media. Cheng had been imprisoned and his family persecuted to do his work exposing the harsh realities of China’s family planning policy including forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and abuse against those who refused to comply.
The recommendation issued from the China Development Research Foundation would certainly be some improvement upon the current system in place. Says Bob Fu of China Aid, “It’s a positive development. At least more and more people are reaching consensus that this is a non-sustainable policy.” However, a definitive end to this policy is what is needed. While some lesser government ordinances can be phased out over time, China’s one child policy is a massive human rights violation that has caused unknown suffering upon its citizens. For this reason, all people of conscience have an obligation to call for its immediate end.