In his recent journalism book, “Out of Mao’s Shadow,” Philip Pan touched upon many problems in China, one of which is the heavy human cost resulting from cruel local implementations of the one-child policy. The author commented in the final chapter:
“Fertility rates were already falling quickly in the 1970s under the more moderate program launched by Zhou Enlai, from just under 6 births per woman at the beginning of the decade to 2.7 births when the one-child program was launched – one of the fastest declines in modern history. Nearly three decades of the one-child policy reduced the rate further by only about 1 more birth per woman, and even the government attributes half of that reduction to the impact of rising living standards. The government takes credit for the other half but could that modest decline have been achieved by enforcing a late marriage age or wider spacing of births? Could it have been achieved by following the experience of other developing countries and focusing on education and facilitating contraception?”
Judging from the above quote, even if it’s true that the one-child policy has only reduced the birth rate per woman from 2.7 to 1.7, that is still a 37% decrease, which is not as modest as Pan suggests. To those of us who grew up in China, the problems resulting from extremely high population density had certainly been huge and urgent. A late marriage age is a good idea, but it doesn’t constrain those who have already married. Education is of course an even better idea, but as a Chinese adage goes, to make a tree takes ten years, while making a person takes a hundred. Enforcing a wider spacing of births would run into the same drawbacks as enforcing a limited number of children.
But lets have a discussion. I would like to hear from you, especially those of you who have experiences or studied this area, as to whether the one-child policy itself is completely unnecessary and thus a wrong one, or if it’s the implementation method that needs to be improved.