Population control measures, including a possible loosening of the despised one-child policy, were a major topic at the third plenary meeting of the Party’s 18th Central Committee this week.
Any liberalization of the policy would be minor. The new policy being considered would allow any family, where one parent was a single child, to have a second baby. The current policy allows a second baby only in cases when both parents were only children.
Any changes to the one-child policy would endeavor to sustain the nation’s low birth rate while allowing greater freedom for some families to have a second child, National Health and Family Planning Commission spokesman Mao Qunan told state media.
Mao attributed China’s economic growth in the past three decades to the one-child policy, saying it had prevented the births of 400 million people, resulting in greater prosperity.
However, Wang Feng, a public policy professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, disagrees. In a Nov. 12 article in Caixin magazine Wang was quoted saying he believes the policy’s contribution is exaggerated by family planning officials and that the greatest decline in China’s birth rate occurred in the ten years prior to the 1980 introduction of the policy. The birth rate plunged because of the promotion of birth control information during the 1970s, he said, adding that when the economy took off in 1987, the birth rate fell again.
“The improvement of living standards and changes in people’s views about the family and giving birth are the key forces driving the decline,” Wang said.
Critics of China’s one-child policy point to serious abuses, including forced abortions, selective abortions of female fetuses, and invasive forced birth control practices as further reason to eliminate the policy. Though Chinese authorities have denied the use of forced abortions, such cases have been documented by activists like Chen Guangcheng.
“Women are forced to abort babies up to the ninth month of pregnancy, and sometimes these forced abortions are so violent that the women themselves die along with their full-term babies,” Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition that opposes forced abortion said on the organization’s website.
“The one-child policy causes more violence towards women and girls than any other official policy on earth, than any other official policy in the history of the world,” Littlejohn said.