China May Do Away With Child Limits

"It is never the government's role to tell families how many, when, and if they can have children."

By Liberty McArtor Published on May 25, 2018

China’s policy limiting the number of children each couple is allowed may end soon. Bloomberg reported this week that China’s State Council had commissioned research on ending the policy. An official decision could come as early as this year, or it may come next year.

Olivia Enos is a policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation. She spoke with The Stream about what this could mean for China. “If China is serious,” she said, “this would be an immense step forward for Chinese families. It is never the government’s role to tell families how many, when, and if they can have children.”

An Ill-conceived Idea

China introduced its one-child policy in 1979 to curb the country’s population and battle poverty. But according to a Heritage Foundation report co-authored by Enos in 2016, population was never to blame for China’s economic woes. The report attributes China’s past “economic strife” to “poor communist policies.” These resulted in “mismanagement of food and monetary resources.”

Far from helping, the one-child policy caused grave long-term problems. The population is quickly aging. China itself has estimated that 25 percent of its population will be 60 or older by 2030. In 2010, it was just 13 percent.

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The working age population is also shrinking, Enos told The Stream. So is this generation’s birth rate.

Thanks to decades of child limits, Chinese economic growth is set to decline in the 2020s. China’s GDP could sink to 6.1 percent by 2020. In 2013, the GDP was 7.2 percent. This will happen even if the child limits are immediately scrapped, the report explained two years ago.

“The next generation’s working-age population is already so small,” it went on.

Human Rights Abuses

The policy has also been the driving force behind multiple human rights abuses in China. Families with more than one child are burdened with crippling fines. Government officials subject women to compulsory pregnancy tests, forced abortions and sterilization.

Since many Chinese families prefer sons, millions of baby girls have been aborted. Now, over 30 million more men exist in China than women. That means millions of men cannot find wives. This contributes to the falling birth rate. Additionally, sex trafficking in China has exploded.

First Step Toward Progress

In early 2016, China expanded its policy to allow each family two children. But nothing much changed.

As the Heritage report explained at the time, “the heart of the policy remains the same: the government, not individuals, decides family size. And Beijing uses coercive, often brutal, methods to impose its dictate.”

The child-limiting policies have also had a psychological effect on Chinese families. “Chinese citizens have been told for years that having only one child is ideal,” the report explained. “A flip of the switch in government policy will not immediately transform people’s thoughts on family size.”

Nevertheless, the report called for an end to China’s child limits. Seeing results will take time. But in the long run, less coercion and more freedom will benefit China.

But child-limits aren’t officially scrapped yet. “The international community should continue to highlight humanitarian and economic reasons for why China should end this terrible policy,” Enos said.

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