China's One Child Policy: Violating Human Rights and Creating Social Issues

Categories: China

Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, there was a notable rise in population due to advancements in hygiene and healthcare. Nevertheless, this resulted in considerable pressure on the country's food resources. To tackle overpopulation, authorities launched a birth control campaign in 1955. Regrettably, Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward disrupted these initiatives in 1958 as he aimed for rapid industrialization. Consequently, by 1962, an appalling famine had gripped the nation leading to an estimated death toll of around 30 million individuals.

China implemented several campaigns to reduce the population after the famine. One of these, known as the "Late, Long and Few" campaign, successfully reduced population growth by 50% from 1970 to 1976. However, as population growth stabilized, officials decided to implement more drastic measures. Consequently, China introduced the One Child Policy in 1979 ("Brief History").

The One Child Policy is a regulation that limits the number of children urban couples can have to one, but rural families and ethnic minorities are exempt. However, this policy has been associated with forced abortions and the killing of female infants, which raises various concerns.

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The most significant issue is how it violates individuals' human rights by infringing on privacy, autonomy over their bodies, and the right to determine family size. Furthermore, the policy leads to a gender imbalance with an excess of unmarried men and negative effects on crime rates. Another concern is the potential social consequences that may arise from having an entire generation composed solely of single children.

The age disparity between the young and old in China is having a significant impact on the country's economy.

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There is also controversy surrounding China's One Child Policy, with arguments that it was unnecessary from the beginning. It is important to abolish this policy as it violates individuals' human right to determine their own family size. The Chinese government enforces restrictions on families to have only one child, despite claims by officials that it is optional. Failure to comply with this policy results in penalties, such as Yang Zhitzhu—a law professor at China Youth University for Political Sciences—being fined $37,000 in 2009 as a "social upbringing fee." Debra Cassens Weiss, who has a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law and a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois, discussed this information in an article.

The text discusses the repercussions faced by a man who protested against China's one-child policy. As a result, he lost his job and decided to sell himself for $100,000 while remaining loyal to his employer until death. Additionally, due to his inability to pay the fee, his second daughter is unable to obtain household registration papers necessary for public education and healthcare access. This unjustly affects both the father and his innocent daughter. The article was written by Harry Wu, executive director of the Laogi Research Foundation, who recounts Gao Xiao Duan's testimony about China's one-child policy during her appearance before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights on June 10, 1998.

Gao, who worked as an administrator at the Yonghe town planned-birth office, clarified in the hearing that her role was to implement the policies of the communist regime as per the 'one child' policy. Her daily duties involved distributing "birth allowance" certificates to women who met the criteria set by the central and provincial planned-birth committees.

She issued notices known as "birth-not-allowed notices" publicly to expose the couple's violation of the one-child policy, making it easier for everyone to monitor them. Additionally, Gao issued "birth control measures implementation notices." These notifications were sent to all women of child-bearing age, informing them about the requirement to use reliable contraceptive devices and undergo pregnancy examinations if necessary. Failure to comply would result in a supervision team apprehending the woman and forcibly conducting the required examinations.

Issuing notices on whether or not a woman can have a child and violating their human right to choose violates the privacy of Chinese citizens. Requiring examinations on contraception and pregnancy status violates individuals' right to privacy over their own body. Forcing women to undergo these examinations strips away their freedom and highlights the excessive control of the Chinese government in implementing the one-child policy.

The One-Child Policy in China has led to an increasing gender imbalance. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), by January 2010, it was predicted that within ten years, 20% of young men would face difficulties in finding a spouse due to the decreasing number of women in the country. CASS also forecasts that by 2020, there will be a surplus of 30 to 40 million men under the age of 19 compared to women. To provide context, the combined population of boys under 20 in Germany, France, and Britain is approximately 23 million, while the United States has around 40 million boys. Essentially, China's excess male population could match or even surpass the total male population of Europe's three most populous countries or the entire United States.

The sex ratio in China has been consistently rising since the 1980's. In the birth cohort from 1985 to 1989, there were 108 males born for every 100 females, a deviation from the natural range. This imbalance increased even more in the birth cohort from 2000 to 2004, with an astonishing sex ratio of 124. Currently, according to the CASS, the sex ratio stands at 123, which is considered biologically implausible without human intervention ("Worldwide War").

This is on the national level, but when examining different regions and provinces in China, the extent of the imbalance becomes even clearer. In a study of Chinese household data conducted in 2005 and reported in the British Medical Journal, only one region, Tibet, had a sex ratio that was considered to be within natural bounds. Fourteen other provinces had a sex ratio above 120, and two had an extremely unnatural ratio of over 130 (“Worldwide War”).

The gender disparity in China is resulting in a range of problems, extending beyond the challenge faced by men in finding a spouse. It is also influencing crime rates within the nation. As stated in "Worldwide War," throughout time, young unmarried men in societies where social standing and acceptance are determined by marriage and parenthood have been responsible for the majority of crimes and acts of violence. This predicament could spell significant trouble for China as its crime rate continues to increase.

Research on the correlation between China's sex ratio and crime rate reveals a nearly twofold increase in crime over the last twenty years. Around one-seventh of this surge can be linked to the escalating sex ratio. Notable crimes that have experienced a rise encompass bride abduction, women trafficking, prostitution, and rape ("Worldwide War").

The increasing gender imbalance in China is responsible for approximately one-seventh of the rise in crime rate. If this issue is not promptly addressed, China will encounter significant challenges. While imprisoning all offenders could be a potential solution, it is not viable in the long run due to limited prison capacity. Therefore, it is crucial for China to reevaluate their one-child policy and modify it to discourage favoritism towards male children unless they opt to abolish the policy altogether.

The One-Child Policy in China has led to a generation consisting solely of single children, which is viewed as a negative outcome. In March 2007, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the primary political advisory body in China, proposed that abolishing the One Child Policy would be advantageous. They contended that this policy contributes to social issues and personality disorders among young individuals ("Consultative Conference"). This specific generation is commonly known as "Little Emperors" due to their tendency to display self-centered behavior and encounter challenges in interpersonal communication.

Concerns have been raised about the increasing proportion of citizens aged sixty and above and the decreasing proportion of younger citizens. The latest census data reveals that this policy has been effective, as the population has grown from 1.27 billion in 2000 to 1.34 billion last year. The average annual growth rate for the past decade is 0.57 percent, compared to 1.07 percent in the previous decade.

However, the census also shows that citizens aged sixty and above now make up 13.3 percent of China's population, a rise from 10.3 percent in 2000, while there has been a decline in the number of future workers aged 14 and below.

Citizens in the age group 14 and below currently constitute 16.6 percent of the population, a decrease from 23 percent in 2000 ("Plan Faces New Fire"). By 2030, it is estimated that citizens in their 20s will decline by 35 percent, while individuals aged 55 to 60 will increase by 60 percent. Moreover, the population aged 65 and over is projected to surge by a substantial amount of 100 percent during the same period (Elizabeth Economy).

The elderly population in China is rapidly growing as the previous generation, who were born before the implementation of the One-Child Policy, retire. This places a significant financial burden on Chinese society to support their retirement. Additionally, while the number of retirees is increasing quickly, the workforce is shrinking even faster. This trend will reverse the previous demographic pattern where a large pool of low-cost labor fueled a manufacturing boom for three decades ("Plan Faces New Fire").

China's economy is being severely impacted by the growing retiree population and shrinking workforce, as discussed by Kevin Hamlin in an article published in Bloomberg Businessweek. The article highlights Lin Chang Jie's efforts to preserve his family's business amidst these challenges.

Lin is facing the challenge of a shortage of workers and the consequent need to increase wages. To avoid his business from failing, like many others, Lin has devised a solution: transforming his Dejin Textile company into an online fashion retailer. This transformation intends to reduce the required number of employees. The scarcity of workers primarily stems from a decline in unskilled labor, which is vital for manufacturing low-profit items such as clothing, toys, and furniture. This decrease in unskilled labor is particularly concerning because these types of goods accounted for 68 percent of China's exports last year, according to China's customs agency.

Hamlin’s article suggests that the increase in wages is compelling mainland companies to enhance their products with higher value. In order to prevent an economic decline, China needs to transition within approximately five years. This is crucial as growth is projected to decrease from 2016 to 2020 due to the failure of low-cost producers and diminishing investments.

There is also the four-two-one problem, which will have a negative impact on the economy at an individual level. The four-two-one problem refers to the situation where citizens who were raised as only children will have to shoulder the responsibility of supporting up to six people alone. They will have to provide for their retired parents as well as up to four grandparents. As men greatly outnumber women, there are many single men left to support both parents and grandparents. Consequently, this will result in individual citizens saving more money, thereby harming the economy as they are not reinvesting as much money into it.

Chinese officials argue that the One-Child policy is responsible for the improved economy, but it is not necessarily the only factor. China's economy had already been advancing before the policy was implemented. Hence, it is plausible that economic reforms rather than the population policy should be credited for the progress. However, if China fails to address the age disparity caused by the One-Child Policy, it could lead to a significant economic downfall. This downfall would entail failing companies, decreased investments, and limited spending at the individual level due to the four-two-one problem.

Despite the effectiveness of the One-Child Policy, some argue that it was unnecessary. In 2000, a coalition consisting of demographers, economists, and former Family Planning officials opposed the policy. They were aware that China's fertility rate had already been decreasing before the policy was implemented in 1980. In fact, from 1970 to 1979, the fertility rate dropped from 5.5 to 2.7 due to a policy encouraging delayed marriage, longer intervals between pregnancies, and fewer children.

The group discovered that fertility rates in other developing countries exhibited similar outcomes. Hence, they began conducting discreet field research to substantiate that China's fertility rate had significantly declined below the replacement rate of 2.1, which is essential for maintaining population stability. Considering all exemptions, the group estimated that if the policy was correctly implemented, the fertility rate should be 1.47. Currently, the group asserts that since 1991, the fertility rate has consistently hovered around 1.8, well below 2.1. The group posits that many children are likely being born clandestinely to avoid fines and thus, if those cases are excluded, the fertility rate is actually approximately between 1.5 and 1.6 ("Plan Faces New Fire").

The group proposes that instead of enforcing the One-Child Policy, China could have promoted a two-child policy. They believe that by encouraging people to have fewer children and marry later in life, China could have achieved a fertility rate closer to replacement level. Consequently, they question the necessity of maintaining a policy that harms the country and advocate for abolishing China's One-Child Policy. They argue that this policy infringes upon individuals' fundamental human rights, as every person should have the right to decide how many children they want without government interference. Despite claims by some Chinese officials that the policy is voluntary, severe penalties are imposed on violators, such as Yang Zhitzhu who was fined $37,000.

According to Gao Xiao Duan, the policy violates individuals' privacy by mandating pregnancy examinations and verification of contraceptive devices. Additionally, it clearly infringes on Chinese citizens' right to privacy regarding their personal information. The severe gender imbalance, far exceeding natural levels, has created challenges for men in finding a spouse and directly contributed to a rise in crime rates in China. A policy that leads to an increase in crimes such as rape, kidnapping, and prostitution should not be implemented. Moreover, the widening age gap is negatively impacting China's economy. Although its full consequences will become more evident in the future, the shrinking workforce combined with an increasing number of retirees is already causing the decline of low-skilled jobs that were originally instrumental in driving China's economic growth.

The four-two-one problem hinders economic growth as citizens are compelled to increase their savings instead of reinvesting in the economy. Additionally, it is concerning that the policy may have been unnecessary, considering China's dangerously low fertility rate below the replacement rate of 2.1, resulting in an unstable population. If the policy was unnecessary and ineffective for the country, China should abolish it. Therefore, while the one-child policy significantly curbed population growth, the question remains: what is the price being paid?

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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China's One Child Policy: Violating Human Rights and Creating Social Issues. (2016, Nov 17). Retrieved from

China's One Child Policy: Violating Human Rights and Creating Social Issues essay
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