Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About China and One-Child Policy

 

Below are questions that are frequently asked about China and its One-Child Policy.  All data is gathered from reliable and credible sources, which are drawn from our library of statistics and research articles.

 

China’s Population

 

Isn’t China overcrowded and overpopulated?

Won’t a greater population simply drive up unemployment and poverty?

China’s leaders often say that a smaller population will lead to a higher standard of living. Is this true?

Okay, so China isn't overpopulated.  But won't it become overpopulated if the Chinese people have too many kids?

Is the One-Child Policy the result of scientific research about over-population?

My Chinese friends tell me that most Chinese people don’t want more than one child anyways.  Is this true?

 

Policy Details

 

I’ve heard that many people in China are allowed to have more than one child, so the term “One-Child Policy” isn’t accurate.  Is this true?

I have heard reports that China is relaxing its One-Child Policy by allowing couples who have no siblings to have two children.  Is this true?

Didn’t China stop enforcing the One-Child Policy?

China has reportedly begun testing a Two-Child Policy in certain urban areas.  Does this indicate that the One-Child Policy will end soon?

Shouldn’t China just transition to a Two-Child Policy?

Who enforces China’s One-Child Policy?

 

Domestic Consequences

 

Why do so many Chinese people prefer boys more than girls?

How does the One-Child Policy result in gendercide?

How does the One-Child Policy lead to infant abandonment?

How does the One-Child Policy lead to child trafficking?

 

Punishment

 

I thought most Chinese people could pay a fine in order to have more than one child.  Is this true?

What happens if a couple cannot pay the fine for an out-of-quota child?

What happens to out-of-quota children if they escape forced abortion?

How does the One-Child Policy lead to forced abortions & sterilizations?

My Chinese friends tell me that forced abortions are rare and that most people voluntarily go to the clinic or hospital to get an abortion themselves.  Is this true?

 

International Consequences

 

Do other countries have a One-Child Policy?

The One-Child Policy is a domestic policy, and therefore no foreign country has a right to interfere.  Why does AGA advocate for intervention?

Aside from human rights violations, why should other countries be concerned about China’s One-Child Policy?

But assuming that war doesn’t break out, the One-Child Policy won’t affect me, right?

 

Why China?

 

China just passed Japan to become the  world’s second largest economy, so why do you send aid to China?

I hear that women in China are treated quite well and have more rights than in most developing countries.  Is this true?

 

 

China’s Population

 

Q. Isn’t China overcrowded and overpopulated?

A.  China ranks 78th in the world for population density, where 1st has the highest population density.  Some countries that are more dense than China.  Germany (55th), the UK (51st), and Netherlands (28th).  China is ranked even lower on the population density rankings when taking into account arable land (ranking #81).  Check out this video about overpopulation: 

 

 

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Q. Won’t a greater population simply drive up unemployment and poverty?

One of China's greatest assets is its human resources. Because labor is plentiful, products can be produced very cheaply and efficiently. However, China's labor pool is dwindling, leading to rising labor costs and an impending labor shortage.  A larger population can be a good thing. According to economist Julian Simon, author of "The Ultimate Resource," a rise in population lowers food and material prices, making these resources more widely accessible. The book was endorsed by Nobel Laureate economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

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Q. China’s leaders often say that a smaller population will lead to a higher standard of living. Is this true?

A. Noted economists Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams studied and found no correlation between population density and famine & poverty, which were the two original reasons behind the implementation of the One-Child Policy. In fact, these economists found that corrupt government—rather than population density—is the main indicator for nations impacted by famine & poverty.  Check out this video about how overpopulation and famine are not correlated:

 

 

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Q. Okay, so China isn't overpopulated.  But won't it become overpopulated if the Chinese people have too many kids?

A. Scientists have determined that the number of children each couple must have to keep the population steady is 2.1.  Each couple must have an average of 2.1 children in order to keep the population steady--and this doesn' take into account extraordinary loss of life such as famine and war.  Current estimates place China's fertility rate at 1.5 children per family, far below the natural replacement rate.  If that continues, a demographic crisis will develop where there will be too many elderly for the population to support.  Check out this video about how critical it is to maintain a minimum of 2.1 fertility replacement rate:

 

 

 

Q. Is the One-Child Policy the result of scientific research about over-population?

A. The math behind the implementation of the One-Child Policy is highly questionable. The calculations were performed by a notable Chinese rocket scientist, Song Jian, who used a rocket formula (replacing rocket variable with people) to predict future population levels.

 

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Q. My Chinese friends tell me that most Chinese people don’t want more than one child anyways.  Is this true?

A. Most, if not all, of the Chinese nationals that we come into contact with in the U.S. (and in other countries) come from the urban centers of mainland China, where the standard of living (and hence the cost of living) is higher.  As with the developed nations of the world, higher standard of living naturally drives down fertility rates, and so it is not unusual that people in the urban cities may prefer fewer children.  Moreover, most Chinese nationals working or studying outside of China come from relatively affluent backgrounds, creating a more skewed sample bias.  However, the reality is that the majority of China’s population (55%) lives in the countryside, where a much poorer sample of citizens would prefer to have more than one or two children.  Just think—how many single-child families do you know?  Most people, even in affluent societies, prefer to have more than one child.

 

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Policy Details

 

Q. I’ve heard that many people in China are allowed to have more than one child, so the term “One-Child Policy” isn’t accurate.  Is this true?

A. In the early years of the One-Child Policy, government officials decided to allow certain rural residents to have a second child if their first child was a daughter, a concession to accommodate for the overwhelmingly strong preference for boys in the countryside.  Minority ethnic groups are also allowed to have more than one child, but they account for a very small proportion of the Chinese population.  However, nearly 2/3 of all Chinese households are still required to have one child.  As a result, more than 160 million Chinese households have one child; by contrast, the U.S. has 78 million households in total.  Thus, the term “One-Child Policy” is appropriate to describe China’s current family planning policy.

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Q. I have heard reports that China is relaxing its One-Child Policy by allowing couples who have no siblings to have two children.  Is this true?

A. While it is true that couples who have no siblings can now have two children, this has been a part of the One-Child Policy since its early days, and thus it does not represent a relaxing of the policy.  The Chinese government, eager to appear open to change, has positioned this two-child clause as a relaxation of the One-Child Policy, when it fact it is only a continuation of the very same policy as before.

 

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Q. Didn’t China stop enforcing the One-Child Policy?

A. The People’s Republic of China has not stopped enforcing the One-Child Policy. It was originally intended to last 30 years, but according to recent government quotes on September 25, 2010 (the 30th anniversary of the policy) the policy is not scheduled to end for several more decades.

 

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Q. China has reportedly begun testing a Two-Child Policy in certain urban areas.  Does this indicate that the One-Child Policy will end soon?

A. Unfortunately, China has only conducted very limited tests to relax the One-Child Policy, and only among a very small population of people. These tests have been conducted for years, but have had no visible impact on the enforcement of the One-Child Policy nationwide.  For years, China has said that it will re-examine the One-Child Policy and consider relaxing it, but such discussion has not led to any significant change, and certainly to no change that affects the vast majority of Chinese citizens.

 

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Q. Shouldn’t China just transition to a Two-Child Policy?

A. A Two-Child Policy may seem like a good compromise with the current system, but the data from China’s tests (see question above) showed that a Two-Child Policy actually led to greater rates of gendercide.  Moreover, a Two-Child Policy is still a coercive measure to control a woman’s reproduction, which AGA opposes on grounds of basic human rights violations.

 

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Q. Who enforces China’s One-Child Policy?

A. There are over 300,000 officials whose job it is to enforce the One-Child Policy, and a total of 92 million members who help out with enforcement.

 

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Domestic Consequences

Q. Why do so many Chinese people prefer boys more than girls?

A. Traditionally, Chinese culture has had a significant bias against girls and women.  Perhaps the most significant example of the subjection of women is the horrible practice of foot-binding, which was imposed on women for nearly 1000 years in China.  It became so deeply entrenched that women became the ones who bound the feet of their daughters and granddaughters.  Today, while foot-binding has been abolished, many other forms of prejudice against girls—including sex-selective abortion, abandonment, infanticide and trafficking—have became even more prevalent.  The cultural bias stems in part from the fact that women, traditionally, were only financially responsible for their in-laws; that is, a women was no longer responsible for her birth-parents once she married.  In modern-day China, much of that tradition has continued, and so Chinese couples prefer boys (who will take care of them in their old age) to girls (who will simply marry off to another family).  In the absence of a social security system to support and protect the elderly, parents see sons as their "social security" for their old age.  There are a host of other reasons that Chinese couples prefer boys:  sons provide better labor, sons pass on the family lineage, fathers have authority in the household, etc.  Perhaps most importantly, the cultural preference for boys has been so deeply engrained that there can often be deep shame from not having a son.

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Q. How does the One-Child Policy result in gendercide?

A. Most Chinese parents today can only have one child.  Due to the preference for boys, many parents will go to extraordinary means to make sure that their one child is a boy.  (Even for those families that can have two children, gendercide is prevalent because those areas have even stronger traditional preference for boys.) Parents often use ultrasounds to discover the sex of their baby, and choose to abort baby girls in order to have another chance at having a son instead.  Anticipating this problem, the Chinese government in 1994 banned the use of ultrasound for non-medical uses.  However, sex-selective abortion has still become extremely common across the country, since ultrasound technology is relatively cheap, mobile and easy to operate.  Today, 120 boys are born for every 100 girls, creating an alarming gender imbalance (the world average is 105:100 and China’s average was 106:100 before the One-Child Policy).  As a result, the Chinese government has reported that there are currently 37 million more men than women in China.  Infanticide and abandonment of girls are also more common in China than in other countries, as the One-Child Policy places indirect pressure on families to have a sons rather than a daughter.

 

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Q. How does the One-Child Policy lead to infant abandonment?

A. Due to the One-Child Policy and a traditional preference for males over females in China, couples would like to try again for a boy often abandon girls after they are born.  Each year, 1 million babies are abandoned in China, the majority being girls.  Usually, babies are abandoned within their first year of life, before bonding has occurred with the parents.  The lucky babies are left in front of orphanages, but many are left in the streets to die.

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Q. How does the One-Child Policy lead to child trafficking?

A. The One-Child Policy has led to a shortage of children in general, and girls in particular.  Consequently, many parents are willing to pay in order to illegally acquire a new daughter or son.  Each year, over 70,000 children are kidnapped from their parents and trafficked within China.  Because of the shortage of girls, parents of boys may be anxious to secure a bride early on for their sons.  They pay a trafficker to find them a young girl who will become the future wife of their son, a child-bride.  Boys are also trafficked because of the strong preference for boys in Chinese culture.

 

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Punishment

Q. I thought most Chinese people could pay a fine in order to have more than one child.  Is this true?

A. Having an out-of-quota child often results in fines (known as “social compensation fees” in China) that are far beyond the couple’s ability to pay, reaching levels that are several times a person’s annual income.  For instance, if an American’s annual income is $30,000, the fine for an out-of-quota child could reach $100,000 or more.  Family planning officials have been known to extort large fines that take years to pay off and leave the family in destitution.   In 2008 in Shanxi province, for example, couples of a second child were assessed a fine equal to 20% of a couple’s combined income for 7 years; for a third child, the fine rose to 40% of combined income for 14 years.  Many are forcibly dismissed from their jobs when they have an out-of-quota child.

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Q. What happens if a couple cannot pay the fine for an out-of-quota child?

A. Fines are only one of the methods used to enforce the Once Child Policy. But according to U.S. congressional reports on China, other more brutal methods are commonly used. These methods include forced abortion, forced sterilization, arbitrary detention, and confiscation (or destruction) of private property. The government often requires women who have already had a child to insert an IUD (intrauterine device), an invasive form of birth control, into their uterus. Afterwards, these women are required to have quarterly checkups to see if the IUD is still in place. Women who have had two children are often sterilized to prevent any future pregnancies.

 

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Q. What happens to out-of-quota children if they escape forced abortion?

A. If a child is born out-of-quota (ie, a second child, a non-registered child, the child of an unmarried mother, etc.), that child is denied a hukou, an identification card that gives all other citizens access to health care and education, among other benefits.  These children, also known as black children because they are unregistered, go through life at a severe disadvantage.  What’s more, their parents may also be fined or punished for the unregistered birth, leading to an even greater disadvantage for out-of-quota children.

 

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Q. How does the One-Child Policy lead to forced abortions & sterilizations?

A. In order to prevent "out-of-plan births," forced abortions and sterilizations are used to ensure that the population of each province doesn’t surpass its government quota. The abortions and sterilizations are physically forced on women, and some abortions have been known to occur within 6 days of the expected delivery date. In many documented cases, facilities are not appropriately sterilized and cleaned. These practices can be extremely harmful to the mother’s physical and emotional health.

 

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Q. My Chinese friends tell me that forced abortions are rare and that most people voluntarily go to the clinic or hospital to get an abortion themselves.  Is this true?

A. The majority of Chinese women today who get abortions are single, unmarried women.  While many of these women are not “dragged” off to get an abortion, they are pressured and coerced through fines and other punishment, as it is illegal to have a child out of wedlock—and it is illegal to be married before the age of 20.  Pregnant married couples who already have their first child are faced with the difficult decision of either (a) carrying the second child to term and facing enormous, often crippling, fines or other punishments, or (b) aborting their child.  We believe this certainly classifies as coercion, and so while many of these women may walk into the abortion appointment of their own “volition”, we believe that they have no choice because of the circumstances presenting them.

 

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International Consequences

 

Q. Do other countries have a One-Child Policy?

A.  No, we have not found any other countries with a One-Child Policy; China is the only country in the world with a strict population control policy.  Unfortunately, we have heard reports that other countries are contemplating instituting population control policies such as China’s.

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Q. The One-Child Policy is a domestic policy, and therefore no foreign country has a right to interfere.  Why does AGA advocate for intervention?

A.  China is a signatory to several international treaties that protect women and children from the very injustices caused by the One-Child Policy.  If a country cannot be held accountable to the international treaties that it signs, what is to say that they will not violate future international treaties of greater importance?  China is a signatory of the following treaties:

   2002 Population and Family Planning Law

   1995 Beijing Declaration

   1994 Programme of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development

   Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

   Convention on the Rights of the Child

   International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

 

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Q. Aside from human rights violations, why should other countries be concerned about China’s One-Child Policy?

A. History has demonstrated that countries with large young male populations (aka, “male youth bulge”) have higher rates of instability, which leads to civil wars, revolutions and—worst of all—imperialistic expansionism.  For instance, European imperial expansion after 1500 was the result of a “male youth bulge”; Japan’s imperial expansion after 1914 was the result of a similar “male youth bulge”; in the 20th century, countries with “male youth bulges” such as Algeria, El Salvador, and Lebanon all experienced the worst civil wars and revolutions.  Even recent Islamist extremism in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan are linked to a “male youth bulge”.  For these reasons, it is of utmost importance that the international community pressure China to end the policy in order to preserve world peace.

 

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Q. But assuming that war doesn’t break out, the One-Child Policy won’t affect me, right?

A.  Wrong.  Economists at Harvard and Columbia argue that the high sex ratio in China can explain much of the global trade imbalances.  A surplus of men leads to higher rates of savings, which drives down currency value and leads to a trade surplus for China (and a trade deficit for the U.S. and other major trade partners).  The trade imbalances between China and other countries have significantly contributed towards the decline of the global economy.  For these reasons, China’s One-Child Policy has very real implications for how we live our lives in the U.S. and in other countries.

 

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Why China?

Q. China just passed Japan to become the  world’s second largest economy, so why do you send aid to China?

A. According to the Int'l Monetary Fund, China ranks #99 for GDP per capita.  Don't let the #2 GDP fool you!  They are still woefully poor.  That ranking puts them behind El Salvador (#92), Albania (#94), and Namibia (#98).  While China’s cities are relatively affluent, the large migrant population (211  million) and the large rural population (732 million) are often overlooked in calculations of China’s economic prosperity.  The gap between rich and poor is widening every day, to the detriment of hundreds of millions.  Today, 36% of China’s population (468 million people) live below $2/day.

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Q. I hear that women in China are treated quite well and have more rights than in most developing countries.  Is this true?

A. While China has trumpeted many advances in women’s rights, it is still quite far behind many other developing countries in many significant ways.  For instance, China’s female life expectancy gives it a ranking of 150th in the world, behind Liberia and Gabon.  China’s female enrollment in school is ranked 107th in the world, behind Mauritania and Iran, and slightly ahead of Malawi.

 

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