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Fertility Control Policy in China: History, Current Situations and Reactions

Lulu Luo Mississippi University for Women Interdisciplinary Studies- Women’s Studies & Photography

目录 Table of Contents

Preface 3 China, A Brief History 4 Classes: the Red and the Black 5 Human Rights and the “Great Fire Wall” 7 Statistics: Under-reported Data 10 Political Effects on Population Policy Making 13 One Child-Policy 28 One-Child Policy’s Effects 32 Forced Abortion and Sterilization 32 Imbalanced Gender Ratio 34 Singletons 35 Survey 38 Case Studies Interviews 44 Conclusion 54



前言 Preface

My initial motivate to start the research on China’s One-Child Policy was the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng’s escape from house arrested to America embassy and eventually New York University as a visiting scholar in 2011. He got house arrested because he was involved in too many forced abortion cases that against local government. The voice for women and children’s rights and against forced abortion became the strongest and firmest strength against China’s One-Child Policy. However, since it was initially forming in China around 1950s, China’s One-Child Policy has already become a highly controversial topic not only because of its contents but also its implementing methods and effects nationally and internationally. Internationally, the policy is widely called One-Child Policy. However, in China, the policy is titled as the Family Planning Policy. The description of One-Child Policy ignored the exceptions that allowing the second children. But considered it is the most widely used term, in this research, we still title it as China’s One-Child Policy. This research combined summary of existing researches and documents, survey and interviews conducted by author. It intended to offer a more detail and profound view of China’s One-Child Policy as both insider and outsider, in both objective and subjective approaches. Thanks to Dr. Bridget Pieschel, Dr. Brian Anderson and Prof. Shawn Dickey’s great support, valuable opinions and helps. Without them, this research would not be conducted as it is right now.






历史 China, A Brief History


On October 1st, 1949, Mao announced the victory of the revolution in Tian’an men Square. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded, governed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At that time, he population of the Chinese mainland is about 542 million people (Greenhalgh, 54). After jus surviving the civil war with the Nationalist Party (Kuomindang) and Japanese invasion, the CCP experienced a tough start because of the lack of resources for the development of mainland China. To hasten the pace of the development, the CCP launched a series of campaigns and five-year plans. The Three-Anti Campaign, launched at the end of 1951, was about anti-corruption, anti-waste and anti-bureaucracy; The Five-Anti Campaign started a few months later and was about anti-bribery, anti-theft of state property, anti-tax evasion, anti-cheating on government contracts and anti-stealing state economic information. Under these bright and great titles, they were more of a political removal campaign by the CCP. Following these, the Anti-Rightists Movement of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 all strongly affected social policies in the PRC. In 1953, the CCP started their first Five-Year Plan, a series of social and economic developments which have been kept up to current date with the Twelfth Guideline (2011-2015). By these plans CCP highly centralized its state power, and these plans also partly explains why and how politics affect demographic research later on. After the Anti-Rightist Movement from about 1957 to 1959, people who were considered to favor capitalism and were against collectivization got unexpected attacks. This group included many non-party intellectuals. Ma Yanchu, the senior demography scholar who first mentioned the necessity of population limitation in China was one of them At that time the CCP insisted on the Marxist optimism about large populations and believed that socialism could always make good use

of people. Ma’s voice was considered a doubt and insult to the Socialism. In 1959, Ma Yanchu could still publish an article about Chinese population1, but in the next year, he was removed from the presidency of Peking University and then not any individual scholar dared to write about population control. The Great Leap Forward started in 1958. This is another developing plan on industry and agriculture with extremely overemphasis on subjective wills and efforts, the goals influenced by Soviet Russia and made by Mao in Nov, 1957 was catching up with and surpassing England on the steel production in 15 years; exaggerating tendency was rising perpendicularly at that time, influence of the Great Lead Forward will be explained in detail later. In 1972, the PRC established a diplomatic relationship with the United States and started building that and other international relationships. At the same year, the PRC joined the United Nations, taking the place of the Republic of China. Around that time, the PRC affected by the outside world more than before when Soviet Russia was the only nation influential. Under the stress from both the domestic and overseas, the CCP implemented One-Child Policy officially in 1979 after a series of experiments in urban area such as Shanghai. China’s One-Child Policy is a set of regulations that the Chinese government made for limiting family size. It includes the regulation of the size of family, rules on age at marriage and childbearing. It is a complicated set of regulations which has changed over time. In 1980s, the PRC’s emphasis switched to economic reform. Directed by Deng Xiaoping, the PRC shifted from planned economy to mixed economy which combined socialist economy and capitalist economy, and officially called it “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”.In 2001, the PRC joined the World Trade Organization, which highly improved its international activity and also offered the excuse for international world involvement in certain issues in mainland China. At the same year, population the Research Institute (PRI) from United Nations Population Fund sent an independent investigative team to China. In an Asian nation with over 5000 years of recorded history, there are uncountable historical and cultural reasons for any social movements which happen, many of which outsiders can hardly understand. To get a better understanding of the current China, particularly in the light of population control, we must examine several historical issues and social elements as following:

Classes: the Red and the Black The concept of social classes (jieji) in China is a decisive and influential element in the beginning decades of the PRC. The social class a person holds can affect his or her whole life and his or her offspring. Developed in and influenced by Marxism, Chinese social classes have much more subtle meanings which can hardly understand by later ages or foreign countries. There have been numerous scholarly works on Chinese social classes and related issues in recent years. Politically, people were divided into the bourgeoisie (capitalist class) and the proletar-


iat (socialist class). The proletariat was mainly made up of peasants and workers, which were the base of the red army in the revolution. The poor peasants, middle class peasants, workers, revolutionary soldiers, revolutionary cadres and their families are defined as the Red Five; the Red Five was considered a honored and privileged title of individuals. The bourgeoisie Black Five Categories includes landlords, rich farmers, anti-revolutionists, bad-influencers and right-wingers and their families. For the Red Five labeled people, there are advantages in all kinds of resources access including education, employment, housing and social welfare, even the personality will be considered better than the Black Five who were considered corrupted by the capitalist ideas. Black Five and their offspring had not only had no access to these benefits, but also had to accept specific political education and frequent social struggle sessions2 (pi dou). This social phenomenon in China also shows the influence of the “family line” concept. If the father is the Black Five, his sons or daughters would also be considered the Black Five. Keeping the family line continued is one of the reasons for families in rural area’s desire to have sons because daughters were not a member of the family eventually and would be not in their own but in their husband’s family line. This concept is descended from ancient Chinese philosophy, all the way down from Confucius3 in China history.


Human Rights and the “Great Fire Wall” Human rights in China have been under international examination for many decades. Chinese government consistently has denied the criticism from outsider on rights related issues and insists that human rights in China are protected appropriately based on the current national condition. However, there are still human rights scandals jumping up every now and then. In 2011, for example reports covered the headlines about the blind, selftrained lawyer Chen Guangcheng escaping from house-arrest seeking asylum at the American embassy . Chen was put under house-arrest because he voluntarily helped over a thousand people who were the recipients of local government enforced abortion cases. Human rights cases in China can be covered and hidden since all mass media is still under the government’s control. There is an auditing system covering and censoring almost every information system including television, movies, advertisements, textbooks, the internet and so on. For internet control, there is “the Great Fire Wall” (named after the ancient Great Wall) because it builds a wall around the invisible world. This wall blocks Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, certain major western newspaper websites. The phrase “Sensitive words” (mingan ci) is used for explaining when the information is blocked. Chinese netizens sarcastically quote the CCP leader Wen’s words “ building harmonious society (hexie shehui)” to make jokes about the ‘Great Fire Wall.” This governmental attitude has an ancient history in China. In the Qing dynasty, Empress Dowager4 Cixi declared that Qing was the “heavenly” big nation5, and there was no need to exchange goods with other countries so China should reject trade with western countries. Chinese netizens also refer to this phrase “Heavenly nation”to satirize the government’s behavior which dares not to open information paths between


China and the outside. There are different VPN software inventions which can be used by netizens to breach the Great Fire Wall. However not everyone knows where to download and how to use VPN to cross the Great Fire Wall. That’s one of the big reasons why sensitive news like the Tian’an men Massacre, a 1989 massive governmental crime against mainly college students, is still not widely known about in China.

Statistics: Under-reported Data It is generally agreed that births are under-reported in China (Croll,28). To avoid heavy financial penalty and/or to obtain official permits for a second birth, some people will pull strings (zou hou men) to escape from registration. There is a random check on the registration statistics in a country in Shandong province. In this province, 24 per 1000 birth rate was the actual rate, while the official record was 12 per 1000 (Croll, 29).


Table of births and deaths 1950-2011 Average population (x 1000)

Live births1


Natural change1

Crude birth rate (per 1000)

Crude death rate (per 1000)

Natural change (per 1000)


546 815

20 232 000

9 843 000

10 389 000





557 480

21 073 000

9 923 000

11 150 000





568 910

21 050 000

9 671 000

11 379 000





581 390

21 511 000

8 139 000

13 372 000





595 310

22 604 000

7 846 000

14 758 000





608 655

19 842 000

7 474 000

12 368 000





621 465

19 825 000

7 085 000

12 740 000





637 405

21 691 000

6 884 000

14 807 000





653 235

19 088 000

7 826 000

11 262 000





666 005

16 504 000

9 717 000

6 787 000





667 070

13 915 000

16 964 000

-3 049 000





660 330

11 899 000

9 403 000

2 496 000





665 770

24 640 000

6 671 000

17 969 000





682 335

29 593 000

6 851 000

22 742 000





698 355

27 334 000

8 031 000

19 303 000





715 185

27 091 000

6 794 000

20 297 000





735 400

25 776 000

6 494 000

19 282 000





754 550

25 625 000

6 361 000

19 264 000





774 510

27 565 000

6 359 000

21 206 000





796 025

27 152 000

6 392 000

20 760 000





818 315

27 356 000

6 219 000

21 137 000





841 105

25 780 000

6 157 000

19 623 000





862 030

25 663 000

6 560 000

19 103 000





881 940

24 633 000

6 209 000

18 424 000





900 350

22 347 000

6 609 000

15 738 000





916 395

21 086 000

6 708 000

14 378 000





930 685

18 530 000

6 747 000

11 783 000





943 455

17 860 000

6 482 000

11 378 000





956 165

17 450 000

5 976 000

11 474 000





969 005

17 268 000

6 018 000

11 250 000





981 235

17 868 000

6 221 000

11 647 000





993 885

20 782 000

6 321 000

14 461 000





1 008 065

21 260 000

6 653 000

14 607 000





1 020 180

18 996 000

7 223 000

11 773 000





1 034 750

18 022 000

6 890 000

11 132 000




Total Fertility Rate


Average population (x 1000)

Live births1


Natural change1

Crude birth rate (per 1000)

Crude death rate (per 1000)

Natural change (per 1000)


1 045 320

21 994 000

7 087 000

14 907 000





1 066 790

23 928 000

7 318 000

16 610 000





1 084 035

25 291 000

7 285 000

18 006 000





1 101 630

24 643 000

7 315 000

17 328 000





1 118 650

24 140 000

7 316 000

16 824 000





1 135 185

23 910 000

7 570 000

16 340 000





1 150 780

22 650 000

7 710 000

14 940 000





1 164 970

21 250 000

7 740 000

13 510 000





1 178 440

21 320 000

7 820 000

13 500 000





1 191 835

21 100 000

7 740 000

13 360 000





1 204 855

20 630 000

7 920 000

12 710 000





1 217 550

20 670 000

7 990 000

12 680 000





1 230 075

20 380 000

8 010 000

12 370 000





1 241 935

19 420 000

8 070 000

11 350 000





1 252 735

18 340 000

8 090 000

10 250 000





1 262 645

17 710 000

8 140 000

9 570 000





1 271 850

17 020 000

8 180 000

8 840 000





1 280 400

16 470 000

8 210 000

8 260 000





1 288 400

15 990 000

8 250 000

7 740 000





1 296 075

15 930 000

8 320 000

7 610 000





1 303 720

16 170 000

8 490 000

7 680 000





1 311 020

15 840 000

8 920 000

6 920 000





1 317 885

15 940 000

9 130 000

6 810 000





1 324 655

16 080 000

9 350 000

6 730 000





1 331 380

16 150 000

9 430 000

6 720 000





1 337 825

15 920 000

9 510 000

6 410 000





1 344 130

16 040 000

9 600 000

6 440 000





1 353 821

16 350 000

9 660 000

6 690 000




Source: China Statistical Yearbook 2013


Total Fertility Rate




During the Great Leap Forward, the government’s common practice of making up data was not a secret. There were even competitions between communes. The commune was the essential social unit for people. Farm working, principle studying, supplies and struggle sessions mentioned before were all based on people’s communes. The newspaper illustration here was the head page of the People’s Daily during the Great Leap Forward. The headline is referring to the No. 1 field in the world as Ma County Jianguo Commune, whose early rice field produces over 18,450 kilogram per mu (red letters), which is over 300 US tons per hectare. The following sentence was about another commune which yielded peanuts around 100 US ton per hectare. These unbelievable data became a competition at that time as to which commune could make up the most impressive data. Related surveys about this data and its flawed history make Chinese official statistics less creditable and persuasive.

Political Effects on Population Policy Making China’s One-Child Policy has been through five generations of CCP leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zeming, Hu Jintao and currently Wen Jiabao. The notion that population needed limitation already had a significant history since late imperial China. But in the beginning of modern China, the population problem was not the main issue for government leaders. At that time, in China, there were CCP leaders (i. e. Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai) and a non-party scholar ( Ma Yanchu) interested in and working on related studies which included population subjects. In 1957, it is estimated that over 80 scholars from all disciplines were engaged in the debate about the pros and cons of a large population (Poston et al. 10). But beginning in Mao’s era, social science research was under unequal political treatment and control. Following Marxist theory and Soviet practice, social sciences were radically subordinated to the control of the CCP. Social science was located firmly in the land of Marxian ideology, or more accurately, in the party politics, which is highly centralized in China. Even natural sciences eventually came under similar controls since the part involved in strategic defense partly depends on the party and state power and support (Greenhalgh, 83). The original concept of “birth planning” for limiting the quantity of China’s population was raised by Mao Zedong. However, Mao’s opinions about Chinese population was inconsistent. Preoccupied with the National Party, the Japanese invasion, the population problem had not been a main issue under Mao’s consideration. Beginning with the optimism which is a part of Socialism, that a Socialist society can always make the good use of people, “People is power” was the slogan created by Mao and high fertility was encouraged in the area most affected by the revolution and since the Chinese civil war. After the new nation was founded, the disadvantages of a large population started to appear. Considering how increasing population affected employment, migration, food, clothing, housing, education, overall resources and environment, the CCP’s optimism




gradually shifted to pessimism (Greenhalgh & Winckler, 60). In Mao’s era, China’s population growth had been interrupted by the Great Leap Forward in 1958, and a big drop in population was a natural change around 1960 following a rise (see Table 1) . In 1960, senior demographic non-party scholar Ma Yanchu was removed from the presidency of Peking University6. After that, no individual intellectual dared to be involved in demographic studies. During the1960s, Zhou Enlai remained the only spokesman about population policy in China. In 1962, Health Daily and Youth Daily started to publish articles about birth control. These two newspapers were also under party control. From 1966 to 1976, China experienced a dark period in history. The Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 had a big impact on intellectuals or college educated people. School educations were suspended by force. School work became only a study of class struggle and farm working. College students were sent to rural areas coercively to accept the rebuilding of their attitudes by poor peasants and workers. The opportunities for these students to get back to colleges were also under these peasants and workers’ controls, who had never experienced school education themselves. Reading was censored, since most published books except the Redbook7 by Mao were not considered acceptable.

Notes: 1,《我的哲学思想和经济理论》(my philosophy and economic theory) published in Journal of Peking University, No. 5 and the New Construction, Nov, 1959.

2,Social struggle session is a conference in a social commune intended to criticizing people who made mistakes. During the Cultural Evolution, social struggle sessions were widely used to people who were considered the capitalists. 3,Confucius (551–479 BC) was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. 4,The mother of the emperor at that time. 5,Straightly translation of 天朝, which means the nation blessed by the heaven. 6,Also known as Beijing University. 7,Redbook is the selected works of Mao. They are all printed with the Chinese red color, so people called them the Redbook. It was the only acceptable book at that period. Reciting the content was one of the most important parts of school works. Quoting from the book was considered admirable and a sign of intelligence. During the time most enthusiastically influenced by the Redbook, almost every sentence people said was expected to begin with “indicated by Chairman Mao.”





计划生育政策 One Child-Policy China’s One-Child Policy is a set of regulations that the Chinese government made for limiting family size including the Law of Family Planning, the Regulations of Floating Population Family Planning, the Regulation of Family Planning Technical Service and the Regulation of Social Support Fee8. It combines the regulation of the size of family, rules on age at marriage and childbearing. Officially it starts from 1979 with a plan to improve in 20 years. Under different government generations, the implementing has different enforce levels and exceptions under One-Child Policy was added gradually. The survey conducted by the author of this paper revealed that most non-Chinese respondents knew China’s One-Child Policy as “one couple, one child” but very few knew anything about the exceptions to or the details of the policy. China’s One-Child Policy started in urban areas and has remained strongly enforced, but it is not a simple regulation that applies all over the nation. Regulations vary from location to location considering different situations. For example, minorities were not included in One-Child Policy in the beginning but in recent years, One-Child Policy gradually implemented in minorities at different levels depending on different provinces. Currently in most rural areas, a second child birth permit is allowed if the first child is a daughter or if the first child suffers from physical or mental illnesses or disabilities. Since 2011 if both couples are single children in their families, they can also apply for the second child permit. Chinese citizens returning from abroad, including Hong Kong and Macau are allowed to have the second child; children born overseas who are not registered, as Chinese citizens are not applied to One-Child Policy. However, to most second child exceptions, a minimum 3 to 4 year time space between the first and second child is requested.


Notes: 8,Social support fee is the financial penalty for people who violate the China’s One-Child Policy.




政策效应 One-Child Policy’s Effects China’s One-Child Policy has been a controversial topic both in the domestic and overseas. Officially the CCP declares that One-Child Policy benefits both the people and the state, and it is because of the people’s will that it continues. But criticism never ends about the existence of coercion because of the policy’s enforcement. The following issues have either been caused or worsened by One-Child Policy.

Forced Abortion and Sterilization For most individuals and organizations against China’s One-Child Policy, forced abortion is the No.1 reason for their attitudes and their standing. The most controversial issue is not the content of the policy itself but the way the government implements the policy, which is considered to be harmful to women and children in China. In September 22nd, 2011, a hearing on China’s OneChild Policy conducted before the a U.S. federal subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights of the committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives. Chai Ling, the founder of All Girls Allowed and Reggie Littlejohn, the founder of Women’s Rights without Frontiers both attended this hearing and gave prepared statements. Chai Ling criticized China’s One-Child Policy as a “all the other children must die” policy since most married couples cannot have more than one child, which also means no child allowed for unmarried women in China. There are no official annual abortion statistics open to the public in China. However, according to Chai’s speech during the hearing, some experts estimate that there are 16 million forced abortions a year in China, and based on the number of abortion pills sold in China, possibly close to 23 million. Chai added that an estimated 70% of these women are unmarried. According to


the abortion data on All Girls Allowed website, there are 13 million abortions are performed in China each year, for an average rate of 35,000 abortions per day. In this hearing, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers turned in a report that included thirteen new, documented cases of forced abortion, forced sterilization, and forced contraception as evidence of coercion of women by the Chinese government. Recently Women’s Rights Without Frontiers posted a Chen Guangcheng report on their website which included fourteen other cases of forced abortion. Chen Guangcheng, the blind, self-trained human rights lawyer involved in local forced abortion cases was placed under house-arrest in 2006 without legal procedure. From 2008, several media groups tried to make contact with Chen, but all experienced violence such as beating and threatening by local villagers. The local government declared that Chen’s problem was “the enemy problem” which defined Chen as the enemy to the nation but without any detailed explanation. In April, 2012, he escaped to the American embassy through outside help and now stays at New York University as a visiting scholar. Most forced abortion cases happened in rural areas. There there is still an overemphasis on final result numbers (connected to the old idea of competition between communes) and systematic bureaucratic ranks are still strongly respected in rural areas, which directly leads to the rigid enforcement of any policy the central government delivers. The following pictures are examples of One-Child Policy promotion banners and wall writings in rural areas. These slogans clearly show that local family planning offices only care about the results, instead of truly enforcing a policy

Beat It Out! Abort It! Miscarry! Just Never Give Birth To It! Source: Ministry of Tofu




“One Person Violating One-Child Policy Will Lead To Sterilization for the Entire Village.” Source: Ministry of Tofu

that was initially intended to lessen population stress on economy, education, housing, environment and so on.

Imbalanced Gender Ratio There are consistent results in research about the imbalanced gender ratio in China (Croll, 23). Besides the growing imbalance in gender, with men out-numbering women, discrimination against female infants has also drawn a lot of attention from demographers. An imbalanced gender ratio is only the result of One-Child Policy. What leads to the result however concerns the more important issues: under-reporting of female births, female abandonment and adoption, female infanticide and sex-selective abortion (to distinguish from forced abortion, sex-selective abortion here


Fig. 1. Sex ratio at birth in mainland China, males per 100 females, 1980-2010. Source: “China’s unbalanced sex ratio at birth, millions of excess bachelors and societal implications” Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies 6(4):314-20

means induced abortion by choice, intending to get another birth chance for a son).

In 1991, Johansson and Nygren concluded that around half of the reported imbalanced sex ratios at birth could be caused by child abandonment and adoption. In 1991, the Ministry of Civil Affairs registered 140,000 orphaned and abandoned children. The official adoption number is between 10,000 and 15,000. Most of these abandoned children are girls. Take Hunan province as an example: between 1986 to 1990 over 16,000 children were registered as abandoned. 92% of them were girls and 25% of them were handicapped (Croll, 31). Female infanticide also had an increase after the introduction of the One-Child Policy in 1979. But study shows a decline of female infanticide after that (Croll, 33). In 1982, ultrasound B machines were imported to Chinese market, and then the number of machines and procedures increased at a very fast pace. By 1987, it was estimated that China was able to produce more than 10,000 ultrasound machines annually, or enough to provide all counties in China with 4 additional machines each year (Croll, 36). Even though Chinese government forbade sex identification by ultrasound B machines. It was not effective enough to overcome both the local governments’ desire for control of their statistics and families’ desires for sons to carry on the family line.

Singletons For people born in the 1980s and 1990s, there are special titles-- “80s” and “90s”-- for these generations. Most of them are the single child in their families, and they have grown up in a much better economic environment compared to elder family members. Opinions about these new generations vary. Some argue they are treated like princes and princesses in their families. They supposedly lack manners, have no respect for elders, no ability to share, and are selfish and self-orientated. On the other hand, some think these generations are bearing much heavier duties than the generations before since they are the only economic hope in the families and competition now is much tougher. They worry about being able to take care of their parents when they are old, since they have no siblings to help them. Compared to the generation which experienced the Cultural Revolution, these generations are indeed much more independent in thinking and acting. It’s hard to imagine China can ever go back to the years when everyone was reciting the Redbook without any protest. But people are worried since on the other hand, Chinese social welfare is currently far from perfect. Old family members are still partly depending on the younger generations. As the single child in a family, one person will need to take care of both parents and four grandparents. This is the new issue called “Four-TwoOne.” Since China is gradually becoming an aging society, social welfare of the elder generation will become an unavoidable issue.




统计调查 Survey


Part of this study was conducting two similar surveys among non-Chinese people and Chinese people. There were 168 questionnaires received from non-Chinese sources) and 51 from Chinese people. The questionnaires included first, requests for personal information about sex, age and sibling numbers; second, knowledge questions on the years China’s One-Child Policy has been officially enforced and the general context of China’s One-Child Policy; and three, attitude questions about China’s One-Child Policy. Questionnaires for Chinese people were all conducted online, while for non-Chinese people there are both online and printed questionnaires. Considering the range of respondents and other limitations, results from this survey will not be enough to make conclusions about all Chinese and all non-Chinese people. The results will only be used to make some suggestions about trends and the areas for further research. In the survey of Chinese people, 82.69% of respondents are under 25 years old and 51.92% of all respondents are the only child in their families. The demographics of the non-Chinese respondents are that 41.18% are under 25 years old and only 11.18% of all respondents are the only child in their families while 32.94% (highest percentage) have one sibling and 30.59% have two siblings. China’s One-Child Policy was officially enforced beginning in 1979. So this policy should have been enforced for about 34 years. In the survey of Chinese people, on the question asking how long the policy had been in place, most people (70%) chose between 30-50 years and 29% of all respondents chose less than 30 years. Only one person chose over 100 years. No one chose 50-100 years. This number compared to 48 people (29.58%) among non-Chinese people who

Fig. 2. Ages of respondents in author’s survey on China’s One-Child Policy . Source: author’s survey


Fig. 3. Number of siblings of the respondents in author’s survey on China’s One-Child Policy. Source: author’s survey




chose over 50 years, the results shows a higher knowledge on the policy itself among the Chinese. In the context of China’s One-Child Policy, only the choice that Chinese government leaders are given exceptions for one child limitation was created by the survey author., The rest are the general context and exceptions to One-Child Policy. In the results from non-Chinese respondents, 24 people (10.34%) thought that the created exception was true while no Chinese people chose that choice.

Fig. 4. Response of “How long has China’s One-Child Policy been officially enforced?”. Source: author’s survey


Fig. 5. Response of the content of China’s One-Child Policy. Source: author’s survey

The questions revealing attitudes show the most differences between these two groups. For the against One-Child Policy statements, non-Chinese respondents gave generally average 3.53 out of 4, which means agreed to completely agreed. The highest score is given to “I do not support China’s One-Child Policy in any case.” However, in Chinese respondents, there is some support of China’s One-Child Policy especially when it was considering national population and the highest score was given to “I support government population control” which is 3.21 out of 4.

Fig. 6. Attitudes of the respondents of author’s survey on China’s One-Child Policy. Source: author’s survey


采访 Case Studies Interviews

Chun is 23 years old this year, having one son and is now expecting her baby daughter. Her parents immigrated to America by working in Chinese restaurants when she was in primary school. Currently she is studying in college majoring in Business carrying the hope from her families that she can jump out of their Chinese restaurant and start her own career one day. The following is a transcription of Chun’s interview by the author.


L.L. How old are you? Why are you in America? C. 23 this year. I was born in 1990 in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. I came to America in 2007. My parents applied for me. They arrived in America when I was around 9. 10 years old. At that time I was in grade 3. Around 1990s, because of the rural area development, fields had been taken for building houses. My hometown was based on farm working but around that time there were fewer and fewer job opportunities for farmers. An immigration fever rose in our area. Most of the young generation who could still do physical work chose to move to America for living. My dad came here right after my birth and then my mom followed him. I was staying with my grandparents. They [my parents] started working in Chinese restaurants, because they could not speak English at that time and Chinese restaurants had the lowest requirements for English. There is even a career that developed at the time, the smugglers. We called them “snake head ” They charged a lot of money, helped people get into Mexico or Canada and led them the way to run into America. After they arrived, there were trials waiting for them. The snake heads help them get lawyers and get them through it. If you are lucky, you even got a “green card” which means you can stay in


America forever. However, snake heads won’t help you with employment, Most of [the immigrants] started working and are still working in Chinese restaurants. The only hope is their second generation. When I arrived, I studied in the local high school, and then I got into a private college and now I’m studying Business in a university near to our restaurant. L.L. Are you the only child? C. No, I have a younger brother. [He was] born in 2011, 11 years old. (He was) born in America. L.L. Compare to your life in China, which one do you feel is better for you so far? I think for my situations, I already had the idea at very early age that I would come to America, so I didn’t even consider staying in China. My dad left for America after I was born. My friends, relatives, they also came here one after another. So no matter when, I knew I would be here. But if I were in China, I don’t think I would be able to be admitted into colleges considering the studying environment around me and the high competition. When everybody else around you was considering immigration and talking about it, it also affected you. want?

L.L. Do you have a plan in the beginning about how many children you

C. In the beginning I didn’t have the idea that I must have two or I must have one boy one girl. My idea was one child would be too lonely. If there are two children, they can communicate with each other when they feel the gap with parents. But after I had the first birth, I felt like I didn’t want to have a second baby. It’s not painful to give birth, but nine months full of worries and the tiredness of taking care of a baby makes me a little hesitant to have the second child. So the second pregnancy was not expected. But my husband and I can still afford a second child. We also expected one in the beginning, so we decided to give birth. We are very lucky to have a boy and a girl. L.L. Do you have any expectation for your children? Compared to your parents’ expectation for you, what’s the differences? C. I wouldn’t say it’s expectation. I know in China, parents are really wishing their kids to become the top9. If they can do really good, of course I will be happy. But maybe I’m in America now, I feel like I don’t care that much compared to those parents in China. I just wish they can be healthy and happy. I will try my best to offer them all they need. For example, if they can be admitted by private schools, of course my husband and I will afford them to go to the best schools they can achieve. But if they cannot, it doesn’t matter.

Of course there are differences between my expectations to my children and my parents’ expectation to me. For my parents, they will have specific hope that I can jump out of restaurants one day and start my own business. Because they have experienced that, the hardness and tiredness working in a Chinese restaurant, they don’t want me to live in the same


lives they have already had. L.L. Have you heard that now if both couple are single children in their families, they can have the permit for the second child in China? C. Yes, I heard that. But in my generation in my hometown, single children were not that common yet. It was the beginning of policy implementation and we were living in the countryside. I guess it wasn’t that hard at the beginning. L.L. Then, are there specific examples that make you feel the affect of OneChild Policy? C. I heard from my mom that right after my birth, the local family planning office sent people to our home asking her to do the health check. This was an official procedure, they will produce sterilization to you and it was coercive to any woman who had the first birth. But we knew a friend in that office. He helped my mom get away from this procedure. I knew some pregnant women hid far away and came back after birth. I don’t know how they do the birth registration. I doubt that they even registered their child.




The following letter is written by a Chinese girl who was born in a rural area in China. She has a younger sister and to carry the family burden, after the High School Entrance Exam, she chose to go to technical school, which offers training for certain low payment jobs for high school age students who cannot go to regular high schools for grading or financial reasons. There is additional content from the interview later. This is a translation of her letter by the author. I was born in August, 1992 in the countryside. My parents are farmers, always busy with farm work, but they tried their best to offer me a relatively good environment. From my early memories, my dad put all his effort to my studdies. He was always strict on me, expecting for me a bright future. My mom used to talk about my dad at his young age. He was very smart, good at school work, had very nice handwriting 10. But eventually he lost the opportunities for keeping his study. His friends made jokes about him sometimes, saying he was the “poor lackluster scholar;” he would just smile. After that, I was the only hope for my family and my dad’s dream. Besides that, my life at that time was quiet and easy. In February, 2002, my sister’s birth brightened our whole family. She is 10 years younger than me; taking care of her became so natural to me. I will not let her get any hurt, at least I was thinking that way. She is a very good student. Mom and dad take her as the apple of their eyes. She save money at such a young age, write “sorry letter” to mom and dad when they got upset with her. I was quite ashamed, feeling like I had never been a good daughter like her before. I started to think if I can also carry the burden for my parents, will I be happier. When I was 16 years old, I decided to go to technical school11 studying medicine. I wanted to change from the regular students’ life and also share the burden of my parents. However, when I announced my decision, none of my family members understood me, Even my dad looked very disappointed, which really hurt me, even pushed me to doubt that if I really made a wrong choice. At that time I first knew that making a choice was easy but practicing it is another thing. But eventually my parents gave in. I’m glad I insisted at that time. The last night before I left for technical school, we had a family meeting. My parents and I had a long talk. My sister didn’t say much, but after I left she kept asking mom and dad when I would come home. She didn’t know much about what my choice meant at that time. But if I went to technical school, I could pay less for education and start earning money earlier than my peers. So when my sister is old enough for high schools, she won’t have a lack of choices like I did. After I finished my study there, I found a job in a medicine store in a nearby city from my hometown. It takes about 3 hours drive for express bus. It’s not too far, but I haven’t been back often. I have a boyfriend here now, and we are getting married. For my sister, I tried to see if I can get her admitted into the primary schools here in this city but for my salary and our family’s income from farm working, we still cannot afford that. All I can do is bring-


ing her to the city, buy KFC for her. She loved it. It makes me happy, too. Let me feel like I can still do something for her. I have a cousin who is the only child in her family. She is only half year older than me. We were very close to each other when we were young. We play a lot of games together. We wear bedding sheet pretending we were in a fashion show. We used shells “cooking” grass on candles. We were in the same grade. At the year I went to the technical school, she got a scholarship and was admitted by a very good high school in the city I was working later. Technical school only took me two years, so we finally were in the same city. We met sometimes. She would come to the medicine store I worked, I visited her high school once. But I didn’t want to go there. I felt like it was not a place for me. She is my older sister, but her classmates thought I was her mom; to be honest even my coworkers thought so. We looked very differently since... I don’t know since when. Maybe in the very beginning, maybe from the day we went to different schools.

Notes: 9, There Chen used a Chinese saying “望子成龙,望女成凤” (wang zi cheng long, wang nv cheng feng) which is widely used in China to describe those parents who want their children to be the best and the top. There is no straight translation in English. 10, Good handwriting used to be a sign for good education in China since only certain people can go to schools and learn writing. -- by author. 11, Technical schools are in the level of high schools but at the lowest rank among all kinds of high schools. They offer training for lowest payment jobs. But they are much cheaper than regular high schools if students cannot get good enough scores in the high school entrance exam.




总结 Conclusion


A policy, from making to implementing, will be affected by numerous elements: social and economic conditions, natural and political environment, resources, government leaders’ attitudes, opinions and personal views, public reactions, scholar’s researches and so on. Complicity of the policy itself makes it even harder to make a judgment. Besides that, it’s easy to judge history events, but judging issues nowadays will be much harder as we are involved in and could hardly see the whole picture; there also might be hidden consequences for right now. My personal opinion is that population control by Chinese government was a choice out of no choice. Overpopulation which could not be afforded by the society at that time will cause even more serious social problems such as resources shortage on housing, health and education which would affect the social development in a long term and environmental problem that would affect globally. Without these fundamental supplies, living could be a problem, let alone the human rights. What I disagree with the policy is that government leader’s personal willing was overemphasized during the policy forming and developing. Individual and independent scholars were blocked out of the demographic researches. Objectively speaking, it affected the credibility and fairness of China’s One-Child Policy; The gap between center government and local governments also causes the abuse of power, which directly result in coercive abortion and sterilization. Two interviews above offered a viewpoint of a Chinese mother who has two children and a viewpoint of a elder sister who carries heavy family burdens. These are more subjective and personal viewpoints. There are no intended emotional leading or purposes to promote a value or attitude. It shows some consequences and the effects of One-Child Policy at personal level.

The questionnaire survey on emotional tendencies and awareness level conducted among Chinese and Non-Chinese people by the author shows the stronger against tendency and lower awareness of the policy contents and time among Non-Chinese participants than among Chinese participants. To hold an attitude of an issue is everybody’s right, but to develop a more reasonable and rational attitude and opinions on an issue, we need to listen to different voices and base on more objective information. Same like Chinese government examine and block the information, media in the western is also doing the similar thing. If we have a strong attitude to something without knowing the details of it, the more possible reason is the attitude was delivered directly from outside world instead of developing by our own minds. Basically we will found the more we know about one issue, the harder we will make a emotional judgment and the harder we will be affected by outside information. Hopefully, this research can be one of the voice that help readers know better about China’s One-Child Policy and develop their own opinions and attitudes on China and China’s One-Child Policy.



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Fertility control policy in china by lulu