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One-child policy

The meaning of «one-child policy»

The one-child policy (Chinese: 一孩政策) was part of a broad program designed to control the size of the rapidly growing population of the People's Republic of China.[1] Distinct from the family planning policies of most other countries, which focus on providing contraceptive options to help women have the number of children they want, it set a limit on the number of births parents could have, making it the world's most extreme example of population planning. The one-child policy was supported by a group of Chinese leaders including Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun and Li Xiannian in 1979,[2][3][4] and strict enforcements began in 1980 (after a decade-long two-child policy).[5] The policy was modified beginning in the mid-1980s to allow rural parents a second child if the first was a daughter, and then lasted three more decades before the government announced in late 2015 a reversion to a two-child limit.[6][7] The policy also allowed exceptions for some other groups, including ethnic minorities. Thus, the term "one-child policy" has been called a "misnomer", because for nearly 30 of the 36 years that it existed (1979–2015), about half of all parents in China faced instead a two-child limit.[8][9][10]

To enforce existing birth limits (of one or two children), provincial governments could, and did, require the use of contraception, abortion, and sterilization to ensure compliance, and imposed enormous fines for violations. Local and national governments created commissions to promote the program and monitor compliance. China also provided a nominal reward to families with one child, in accordance with the instructions on further family planning issued by the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council in that year, regulations awarded 5 yuan per month for families with one child. Parents who had only one child would also get a "one-child glory certificate".[11]

The impact of China's birth restrictions has been hotly debated. According to its government, 400 million births were prevented. That statistic originally referred to all births averted since 1970,[12] although later it referred to just the one-child era beginning around 1980. Some scholars have disputed the official estimates. They claim that the one-child program had little effect on birth rates or the size of the total population when one considers the large drop in fertility during the two-child decade preceding it and that other countries – such as Thailand and the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu – experienced notable fertility declines without official birth quotas.[13][14][15][16] A recent study even suggests that, contrary to popular belief and its government's intentions, the one-child phase of the birth program had a pronatal effect that raised birth rates above what they otherwise would have been.[17] Yet this study has itself been disputed as an implausible "erasure of the impact of this program from history."[18] Moreover, the comparative models proposed by those dismissing official estimates as exaggerations[17][14] imply that, even when China's rapid development is considered, its birth program since 1970 has already averted at least 600 million births, a number projected to grow to one billion or more by 2060 when one tallies the averted descendants of the births originally averted by policy.[19][20][21][18] Thus, there is little dispute about the massive demographic impact of China's half-century campaign to control its population. The real debate concerns what portion of the averted births (and population) should be attributed to the tightened one-child limits (and related enforcements) after 1980, as opposed to the two-child program that preceded it.

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