China’s ‘one-child’ rule harmful, not helpful

China enacted a “one-child” policy in 1979 as a short-term solution to China’s overpopulation problem. Chinese officials claim that it, along with other family planning laws, has prevented 400 million births.

But at what cost?

Perhaps the most problematic issue is the growing inequity of males to females. It was reported in a Reuter‘s article that there are about 118 boys born for every 100 girls in China, while in most Western countries there are about 105 or 106 males for every 100 females.

The gender imbalance has created a shortage of wives in China, and contributes to the terrible practice of human trafficking, as females are being kidnapped from rural villages or other Asian countries and sold as wives, as reported in a New York Times article.

The methods used to limit family size are horrific as well.

Abortions are a common way to keep the family to one child, and while some women abort their children willingly, others – particularly those living in the countryside – are pressured into forced abortions.

Despite being illegal, there are still many cases of female infanticide and abandonment in China. Males are preferred over females because of traditional values and ideas of males carrying on the family line, so if parents are only allowed one child, they want that child to be a boy.

This leads to the parents killing or abandoning their baby girls so they can have another child, one that might be a boy.

The one-child policy has also contributed to the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. Families are usually fined for having additional children, and poorer families cannot afford to pay this fine, while wealthier ones can.

Between 2000 and 2005, it was reported in the Reuter‘s article that in the Hunan province almost 2,000 officials and celebrities had violated the rule by having more than one child.

The policy has created a rift between rural and urban families as well. In the countryside, families need several children to not only help run the farm, but also to ensure that at least some of them will live to adulthood.

In cities, children are not needed as much economically and have a much higher chance of surviving to adulthood. For urban families, being allowed only one child is not nearly as much of a problem as it is in the countryside.

The one-child policy is also disrupting the family unit in China. Traditionally, the family was a strong support system for the Chinese people. But with the policy, aunts, uncles and cousins are gradually becoming extinct, disrupting this family system.

There is also the problem of one child being able to support his or her grandparents once he or she gets older. There is not a consistent, statewide pension plan in China, and it has traditionally been up to children to take care of their parents and grandparents. With families only having one child, however, it is not usually economically feasible for that one child to take care of two parents and four grandparents.

Another concern China is dealing with is that the one-child policy has created a nation of “Little Emperors,” or single children who are spoiled, egocentric and tend to have social and behavioral problems. These children are also their parents’ only hope for becoming successful and elites in society, and the pressure they place on these children is enormous.

Instead of solving problems, the one-child policy has created many more social issues that China now has to deal with.

It is time for China to begin resolving these issues in the coming years before it’s too late.