China’s one child policy

On the way to work this morning, I was listening to my local NPR station and heard a brief news clip about China’s one-child policy. According to the announcement, despite acknowledging that the policy has created a growing gender gap China is not making plans to change its policy of population control. As I was listening to this story, there was one thing not mentioned so as soon as I logged on to my computer at work, I did a search for the story.

Over 275 media reports about this announcement came up on my search, including some reports that stated the opposite. In The Australian, China relaxes its one-child policy reports that China is changing its policy. However, most of the stories like this one by The Globe and Mail (and the NPR report) are stating that China is not changing its policy.

Either way, China has recognized that its policy is to blame for the current practices of gender selected abortions and infanticide. According to The Globe and Mail, "The easy availability of ultrasound to determine fetal gender has also added to the imbalance, as many women choose to abort girls in keeping with China’s traditional preference for boys."

And in The Australian, the Minister for Population Planning, Zhang Weiqing, stated on Tuesday that their new plan:

". . . aimed to stabilise China’s overall fertility rate at about 1.8 children per couple, while also addressing the imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls. He said this ratio was about 1.18:1 and was still widening as access to ultrasound testing – leading to the abortion of girls – increased, a development that "presents a very severe challenge to the Government." He called for "very strict punishment for abortions which have no medical purpose."

I thought it was very interesting that the numbers of girls that are adopted out of the country was never mentioned in any of the articles or the NPR report. In the statistics given by political and government talking heads, do those numbers include the girls that are born and abandoned or relinquished to orphanages, or do those only include the girls that are actually kept in the family? According to Mr. Zhang,

". . . the government has committed itself to solving the imbalance within 10 to 15 years with education campaigns, punishments for sex-selective abortions, and rewards – such as retirement pensions – for parents who have girls."

Nowhere is the mention of domestic adoption programs – one way of ensuring that the country does not become, as The Globe and Mail predicts, "an explosion of social unrest from a growing army of unmarried men."

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

4 thoughts

  1. I have also heard that one problem they are having with domestic adoption(in China) is that because of the growing gender imbalance, the families are esentially picking out their own daughter-in-laws, meaning they are raising the girls to marry their sons. The orphanage director where my daughter was adopted from told our group that they have a hard time with domestic adoptions because the families are so specific as to what they want. Perfect faces, showing signs of high intellegence, well behaved. He also told us that most Chinese families will only adopt slightly older children(4-5) so they can have a better idea of the child’s qualities. Most do not want infants. They have had very few domestic adoptions because of these reasons coupled with the cutural negative ideals about adoption. They have about 15% of their available children places for IA, only about 5% to domestic and the rest are raised at the orphange and given some basic job skills and are “released” at 16 years of age. Changing how society feels about adoption would go a long way to ensuring these children could stay in thier home country. I do think it is improving, but thousands of years of cultural ideals will take some time to change. They have come a long way in a short time.
    The province where my daughter is from allows a family two children only if the first is a girl. If the first is a girl, the family may try for a boy. So my daughter most likely has an older sister, who the family kept. That makes me so sad.

  2. I think it’s very hard to find a comprehensive and entirely accurate article on anything related to China’s policies surrounding the issues you mentioned.
    One of the reasons China is changing which families qualify to adopt their children internationally is supposedly because they will be encouraging domestic adoption. Also, I like the idea of rewarding parents of daughters with retirement pensions. That would seem to address the issue many parents of girls are concerned with….who will take care of them in retirement.

  3. Another problem with using the abandoned girls to fill the wife gap is that in some areas in China they are not allowed to marry at all because there is no known information about their family background.
    Even if China kept all the girls in the orphanages (their eventual goal, I hope), it is a small drop in the bucket. I think China sends less than 15,000 children per year to other countries via adoption, but there is a projected imbalance of between 40 and 60 MILLION girls. Of course, not all of those girls are actually aborted or abandoned, many of them are “missing” and just unregistered which means they are not eligible for any state services such as medical care or education.
    It is a complicated problem.

  4. From what I have heard from different sources, one reason the drop in healthy adoptable girl infants in orphanages has more to do with the easy access of ultrasounds to determine sex of the child. If it’s a girl, she is aborted.
    I know China has laws against this kind of thing, but how can they actually enforce or regulate this? They can’t.
    Then again, on another blogger’s site – a young woman who worked in China for an organization that helped get SN children necessary operations or medical care – she says that it is becoming more of a status symbol to have a girl child. It represents that you have the means to care for yourself in your old age, or that you have the means to pay the extra fines. Not sure if this is true throughout China, but perhaps the message is getting out and healthy girls are being kept more often.
    I have to agree that the problem is infinitely more complicated than what it appears on the surface. I don’t believe any one part of the problem or any one solution can address this adequately.

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