China’s One-Child Policy

by Project Censored

One of the most criticized and controversial issues of today concerns China’s famous one-child policy, which, from the very beginning, has received a great deal of negative criticism from all over the world. This policy is generally not accepted by people outside of China but throughout the course of research, I found the policy to be a reasonable measure taken to address a serious problem. Many people fail to realize that the reason the policy was implemented in the first place was to solve the burgeoning problem of overpopulation. The Chinese government decided to take such action to address this problem because they were aware of the serious consequences of overpopulation. In fact, many people fail to realize how the policy has not only benefited China, but has also made a significant contribution to our planet. It is important to understand that this policy has saved the lives of many Chinese citizens who could have died from being too poor to support themselves.


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*Georgia Journal Of International & Comparative Law 38.3 (2010): 525-542. OmniFile Full Text             Mega (H.W. Wilson).

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*Kluger, Jeffrey. “China’s One-Child Policy: Curse of the ‘Little Emperors'” Time. Time, 10 Jan. 2013

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*Nakra, Prema1, “China’s “One-Child” Policy: The Time For Change Is            Now!.” World Future Review (World Future Society) 4.2 (2012): 134-140. OmniFile Full             Text Mega (H.W. Wilson).

*Torrent, LluĂ­s. “One Child Policy in China: Pros and Cons.” Web log post. United Explanations             Blogs. LluĂ­s Torrent, 28 Aug. 2012.

*White, Tyrene, “China’s Longest Campaign: Birth Planning in the People’s Republic 1949-          2005,” (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006).

Student Researcher: Hameed Slimane, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College



Before the Chinese government introduced this policy, more than 54% of the Chinese were poor and it predicted that “as time went on and the demand for food, water, education, housing, and employment grew” the nation’s rapid growth in population would not be sustainable (White). From this realization came a general agreement that a policy limiting births was necessary. Overpopulation imposes a negative impact on the environment and it leads to inadequate resources. In other words, because of overpopulation, there are not enough resources to support everyone and it leads to poverty and economic instability. Poverty was the biggest problem for a majority of China’s population, so this meant there was an insufficient amount of jobs, food and water. Many people (including Prema Nakra, the author of the article, “China’s “One-Child” Policy The Time for Change Is Now!,”) believe that the policy was unnecessary. However, poverty portends serious consequences for the impoverished. “About one-third of all human deaths are due to poverty-related causes: to relatively trivial, curable, treatable diseases from which virtually no one dies in any of the developed countries” (Pogge). With the one-child policy, poverty becomes less of a problem because it’s much easier to provide for one child than 2 or 3.

Overpopulation also took a toll on China’s economy as well as the environment. Economically, China has made significant improvements thanks to the policy. Fast forward 34 years later and we see how much China’s economy has boomed and due to their growth, they are making more money and it’s becoming easier for it to support its population (Kluger). Overpopulation is never good for the environment and it is even worse for our planet. When you have a country, like China, that is overpopulated, the land starts to change. Too much agriculture leads to soil erosion, which in turn means that the land is no longer good for farming. When there is a large population, the country requires a huge amount of land to supply enough food for its citizens, but if the land is no longer good for farming there will be food shortages. Pollution is a consequence of overpopulation and this is mainly because of the cars being used by millions of people. According to Su Yiyang, the one-child policy prevented a massive food and water crisis from destroying China’s economy.

While I am aware that one of the main reasons for people opposing the policy has to do with the violation of human rights, I found that the improvement in living conditions and the economy justified having a one-child restriction. Many people argue that it is morally incorrect to set a limitation on the amount of children a family can have, and that the Chinese government took away a basic human right. But is it ethical to sit by and watch people starve, fall ill, and lose their homes because they don’t want to violate this right? This policy helped improve living conditions for the citizens and without it, China would not have been able to support itself and it would have fallen into a state similar to many less developed countries. It would have been more inhumane for Chinese leaders to sit by and do nothing to fix a problem that is harming their citizens’ living conditions, the economy, and the environment.

There was no other solution to this problem even though some people believe that there were other options such as laws that enforced delaying and spacing out births of children. Some believe that these options could have had results similar to the one-child policy, over a much more extended period of time.”Some critics stress that some of these alternatives were known but not fully considered by China’s political leaders” (Torrent). However, according to Pei-Ju Liao’s macroeconomic analysis, in the early 1970s the Chinese government did enforce the delaying and spacing out of births and the total fertility rates did decrease during the 1970s; however these policies were not able to successfully reach their ideal population growth rate. “Therefore, in 1979 the government moved to directly target the number of children per family and the one-child policy was officially formalized. The one-child policy further lowered the total fertility rates to be less than two”(Torrent). This proved that the government did in fact attempt other methods of reducing rapid population growth before turning to their final option, which was to restrict families to only one child. There were literally no other options and if China failed to take the measures that it did, then the country would be in a much worse condition right now.

A majority of people are unaware that the one-child policy actually has several exceptions and it is not as strict as most would assume. For example, the family that does not go against policy rules is provided with a child allowance, which continues until the child is 14 years old. The child also receives priority consideration with schools and college admission. Under the policy, children also have much easier access to health care, employment, and housing. Also families are allowed to have a second child if the first child is a girl and technically, families can have as many kids as they want if they are able to pay the 6,000 dollar tax for each additional child. The policy only applies to the Han Chinese, which makes up 90% of the population; and also, if both parents are the only children in their families, they can have a second child even if the first born was a boy (Button).

One of the most common arguments against the one child-policy is the fact that China forces women to have abortions and that this is what makes the policy inhuman (Mosher). However, contrary to popular belief, China does not force abortions on families with more than one child. This goes against policy regulations, and forced abortions are not needed to enforce the rules of the policy. To enforce the policy the government simply provides tax breaks for having less than two children and any forced abortions that occur today are being done illegally against the policy’s rules. This is a different issue with law enforcement and is a separate issue from the one-child policy law (Mosher).

A major concern with the policy that most psychologists have is that they believe being raised as an only child will have social impact on children leaving them to be less involved and more isolated. According to Dayana Cabrera, some parents may over-indulge their only child. Apparently it is very common for the media to refer to these “spoiled” children as “little emperors.” Cabrera also goes on to say that, “since the 1990s, some people have worried that this will result in a higher tendency towards poor social communication.” This whole argument mainly depends on the parents that raise their children and the child as well. It is an overgeneralization to say that the one-child policy is cause of children’s social problems because the social adjustment of children depends on many factors. I was able to meet a few foreign exchange students from China and they seemed to be very social and humble. I asked two of these students if they believed the “little emperor” theory to be true, and they both responded saying that it mainly depends on the values with which a person is raised.

Accordingly, it appears that its economic and environmental benefits suffice to justify the policy. Even the argument about human rights being violated can be challenged by the fact that most Chinese citizens are extremely supportive of the one-child restriction. That is, if these citizens freely choose not to assert a right, then it really cannot be said to have been violated. Indeed, in a 2008 survey done by the Pew Research Center, 76% of the Chinese population said that they support the policy. According to Wang Feng from BBC News, a lot of people are satisfied with their living conditions and many don’t really want more children. They have accepted the policy and are aware that it has stabilized their economy, so generally there is little opposition to the policy itself.

Instead of criticizing China for implementing such a policy, we should commend them for their progress and all the damage they have prevented to the environment as well as the improvements made economically. Chinese leaders chose this method of action for the sake of improving the country’s overall living conditions because they were dangerously overpopulated and knew that it would only get worse because population growth was not slowing down. Overpopulation causes so many problems and it is never a good thing to have too many people in one area. The policy is not as strict as many perceive and in fact it is relatively lenient. If China had not implemented the one-child policy, statistics predicted that today China would be similar to lesser developed countries such as India (Kluger). It would have been a counterproductive decision not to have implemented the policy.