Research Paper – First Draft
Professor: Jeanette Treiber
China’s One-Child Policy: More Harm Than Good
Napoleon Bonaparte had once pointed to a spot on the world map and uttered: “There is a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! If he wakes, he will shake the world.” The sleeping giant Bonaparte referred at was China. Today, his prediction of some one hundred and fifty years ago has come true. What has brought China from a backward and poor agrarian nation to a powerful industrial country and a remarkable force in politics, military, and economy in the today’s world? There have been many factors that have contributed to this transformation, and one of them has been the one-child policy. This policy has changed the demographic and social structure of China. However, this is also a policy that has caused a lot of controversy, both inside and outside of China. When we look back on the thirty years of policy implementation, we cannot deny the positive contributions of the one-child policy in changing the face of Chinese society; unfortunately, the negative consequences that it has created are greater than the gains it has achieved.
China’s one-child policy was implemented in 1979. However, in order to better understand the formation of this policy, we need to know the social context of China in the last years of 1940s. The People’s Republic of China was established in 1949 with Mao Tse-tung at the helm as the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. At that time, China was a backward agrarian country. The country was subjected to poverty after many years of wars among different ethnic groups and also against the West. Epidemics and unrest were rampant. Chairman Mao implemented many so-called “reforms” to change the face of the Chinese society, such as land reform, cultural reform, and healthcare reform. But above all, he placed great hope in the industrialization of his country. However, in order to accomplish this transformation, China must have a strong financial resource to build the country’s infrastructure; nonetheless, that was its biggest disadvantage. To solve this dilemma, Chairman Mao proposed a plan to compensate for the country’s financial wellbeing; the focus was on the population growth. According to Mao, a larger population means a greater manpower. He said, “Of all things in the world, people are the most precious” (Fitzpatrick). Hu Yaobang, secretary of the Communist Youth League, at the national conference of youth work representatives in April, 1958, proclaimed, “The force of 600 million liberated people is tens of thousands of times stronger than a nuclear explosion” (Fitzpatrick).
Some Chinese sociologists and economists foresaw the risk that would arise when the population was booming so rapidly. In response to this concern, Chairman Mao simply said: “Even if China’s population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production” (Fitzpatrick). The communist government henceforth condemned birth control and banned imports of contraceptives. As a result, China’s population almost doubled during the period of Mao’s leadership. The first post-revolutionary census in 1953 revealed China’s population to be of 582 million inhabitants, and the number was over 900 million inhabitants in 1976, the last year of Mao’s dynasty (Pascu). Unfortunately, population boom was the only bright point of Mao’s plan. The Great Leap Forward, Mao’s disastrous attempt to rapidly convert China into a modern industrialized state, had failed completely. With many communities were collectivized and converted from farming to steel production, food supply slipped behind population growth, and the inevitable consequence was a massive famine that caused some 30 million deaths in 1962 (Fitzpatrick).
The government was aware of the serious mistakes of Mao’s plan and the danger of the population explosion, so in 1971 the government launched the first family