I usually don’t write about politics, but recently my AP Government Comparative class studied China’s public policy. One of the biggest issues we discussed was China’s infamous one-child policy. I would like to address both the pros and the cons of the policy and then discuss my own position on this matter. Feel free to support, qualify, or refute my position or create your own stance by commenting below. Any feedback is welcome! All information below is either through my own personal knowledge that I have gained from my AP Government class or from Wikipedia. ;]
Basic Overview: China has had a communist regime since 1949 when Mao Zhedong took control after defeating the Kuomingtang. Everything, including the media and economy, has been controlled by the government. In recent years, China HAS taken some steps towards a more democratic state but definitely cannot be officially titled as a “liberal democracy.” There is no doubt that the government has severely oppressed the citizens of China in numerous ways, including the one-child policy. The one-child policy states that a couple may not have more than one child, excluding some situations such as minority families or parents with no siblings. The consequences of violating this law usually consist of drastic punishments, ranging from alarmingly high fees to forceful abortion.
Major Benefits: The one-child policy itself has good intentions and was created under the “family-planning policy” mainly in order to control China’s constantly growing population. Even now, there are approximately 1,338,612,968 citizens residing, which makes China the most populated region in the world. With so many people living in just one area, resources must be stretched out in order to meet the living demands of every person; the one-child policy prevents even more overcrowding of the country and thus decreases the high level of poverty it could potentially have.
The one-child policy alleviates the stretch of resources to be distributed to the population, and thus saves money for the government to give for individual savings; indeed, the savings rate has increased ever since the policy was implemented. Fewer people also means less unemployment; since China is currently overpopulated, the one-child policy limits the amount of people that is pooled into the population through birth, and thus jobs are spread out more evenly.
Moreover, the one-child policy also seeks to encourage smaller, close-knit families by emphasizing quality of life over quantity of life as well as improve the female status in society by de-emphasizing the female’s ability to bear children so more attention is given towards other areas that females may strive to excel in such as politics and jobs.
Major Negative Consequences: Many women who are desperate to have more than one child have their babies stripped literally from their own bodies; the government force many people into abortion, sterilization, and other procedures that are physically and mentally harmful to the victims, perhaps for the rest of their lives. Not only is the person harmed, but the babies also are themselves; at least after the 3rd trimester, the fetus is considered a human life and to intentionally rob the child of its life is essentially murder. What the government officials do is have the woman undergo surgery to take out the half-formed or almost fully formed baby and then inject a harmful substance in its head. Many families have been torn apart and scarred forever by these “punishments.” In 2002, using physical force to make others comply with policy became outlawed, but this has not been enforced and many continue to suffer or have to live a life in hiding so as to protect their families.
In addition, the one-child policy pressures women to have a child of a certain sex: Male. In China, the male is essentially a dominant figure over the female because men are able to stay at home and help support the family by working in fields or in other farmwork and at jobs, while women go off and get married. This has led to a lot of abuse between couples, as men pressure women to give them an heir that will uphold the family name and work to support them. Because of this tremendous pressure on families, many daughters born have been left in orphanages or shipped to other countries to be adopted. This will, in time, leave China’s population with more males than females; these males could become desperate in trying to find suitable wives for themselves, thus leading to greater crime/rape/kidnapping rates.
My Position: To put it simply, giving birth is a natural right for a woman and should not be taken away or physically and intentionally tampered with. Period. Taking that right away as well as robbing the human life of a baby are both inhumane no matter what excuses you use and no matter how good your original intentions are. I do believe that it IS important to control the population of an overcrowded country, especially China, because not controlling it will ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity anyway, but not in this way because it is wrong in every aspect.
There must be alternative ways that allow for positive reinforcement and actually work in reducing the population. I’m not sure what incentives would work since I’d have to dig a lot deeper….perhaps money or a more detailed and helpful family plan that would benefit the whole family and help the couple raise their one single child? And I actually think the Chinese government know that there ARE other ways to enforce the policy. Part of me thinks that the government purposely is using the one-child policy to maintain and enforce its power. China is an amazing country (I’ll show you pictures sometime!), but the regime IS indeed communist. Of course, it has taken some key steps towards democracy, including implementing market-based reforms, but there are still policies like the one-child that heavily oppress the people. The communist government WANTS to stay in power and in control, and I think perhaps they chose the one-child policy specifically in order to keep that up. This is still a speculative and undeveloped theory of mine, however; feel free to let me know what you think.
At the same time, I think if that’s true then it’s silly because don’t the Chinese government want its country to trust and believe in it? I mean, many people (especially the youth and the peasants) were brainwashed with Mao Zhedong’s ideals; by forcing such awful punishments on so many families would lower the internal legitimacy of China because people would be more dissatisfied with how at least that area of their public policy works. Does China really want that? Will it really sacrifice its own internal legitimacy because they are power hungry and want to stay in control?
Also, I think the pro-policy aspect about improving women’s status in China is invalid since forcefully oppressing women from their own natural right to birth undoes just that. I think that would be actually devaluing their status, especially with the pressure to have males instead of females on top of all that. The pressure from the males really doesn’t do much to help the status of the women, and just may worsen it, in fact.
To summarize, I think that the major focus of the one-child policy (to reduce population) is good and probably necessary. However, the current punishments for those who don’t comply with the law is definitely way too inhumane and immoral; instead, there should be incentives that actually encourage people to reduce the amount of children they have rather than live in fear and regret and other depressing and “sorry” feelings.
I’d love to hear your thoughts now! Sorry this post is so long. :P I’ll talk about something a little less intense next time, hehe.