On Oct. 29, the Communist Party of China’s leadership made history as it chose to end its infamous one-child policy, declaring that families are now allowed to have two children. Several troublesome aspects of China’s status quo played a role in this decision, such as an increasingly aging population and the tendency to favor male children, which created a disproportionate sex ratio. China’s working-age population, which includes citizens between the ages of 15 and 64, is no longer increasing after nearly a century of growth; similarly, the rate of its economic growth is also beginning to falter, with its third quarter growth rate of 6.9 percent being the slowest that the nation has seen since the global financial crisis of 2009.
The one-child policy was originally implemented in the late 1970s by leader Deng Xiaoping, who believed the policy was necessary to guarantee that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.” Current president Xi Jinping cited similar ideas about economic growth and development when he announced the new two-child policy at a party meeting. A statement by the National Health and Family Planning Commission expressed the president’s belief that the abolition of the one-child policy would foster “sustained and healthy economic development … by [increasing] labor supply and [easing] pressures from an aging population.” The new policy will not take effect immediately, as it must be approved and clarified by the central government before the provincial governments are allowed to enforce it.
While some citizens have reacted to the policy revision with enthusiasm, others are skeptical of its merit. The cost of raising a child in China is incredibly high and it is difficult to enroll children in schools. In addition, some do not think that the two-child policy will have any effect on the population growth or birth rate, believing that the long-term damage of the one-child policy is irrevocable.
I agree that the policy may not have the intended economic effects, but I celebrate it as a considerable expansion of rights and freedom under the draconian communist regime. For decades, the population has been severely oppressed by the harsh enforcement of the one-child policy. The government has forced abortions, fined families up to six times their annual income, and imprisoned relatives until women with two children agreed to be sterilized.
Now, families who want two children will be able to make that dream come true without fearing penalties. The former one-child policy controlled the most personal decisions of its citizens; no other country in the world has had such a strong influence over reproductive rights. While the two-child policy is still oppressive, the path to increased rights and liberties for the Chinese people must begin somewhere.