China considers an end to the long-lasting child cap

Danielle Day

China is considering plans to alter their two-child limit, giving Chinese families the opportunity to have multiple children.

The two-child limit, originally introduced in 2016, replaced China’s one-child limit that started in 1979.

The child limit serves as a solution to years of economic strife and overpopulation in China, said Hongshan Li, a history professor at Kent State Tuscarawas who specializes in modern Chinese history.

When the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China had a population of about 500 million people. 15 years later, the population boomed to over 700 million people, which is attributed to longer life expectancy, better healthcare and less social instability from wars, Li said.

“By 1970, the Chinese government began to realize the economic difficulties they were to face, and they, like many people those days, blamed the population,” Li said. “They began to accept birth control as apart of the government. It was no longer a health issue or family issue but was a national issue.”

After years of consideration, the Chinese government began to implement the birth cap into law.

“Beginning in 1979, the government began to promote one family, one couple, one child. It wasn’t just a recommendation — it had become a rule,” Li said.

In 1982, the Chinese government put the birth cap into its constitution.

“It had become a law that gave the government the power to implement and formulate birth control policies,” Li said.

To legally have a child, Chinese families have to present a birth permit received from the government. Without a birth permit, parents are fined and the baby is excluded from benefits and not recognized by the government as a Chinese citizen.

Couples, during the one-child limit, who had additional children or became pregnant faced various punishments such as fines based on income or even forced abortion. During this time, there was a sharp increase in dangerous abortions done out of couples’ fear of being caught.

“A lot of women who don’t want to abort just hide. They run to other places and hide in the rural areas and don’t show up until they have (their) child born in some other place,” Li said.

Over time, China saw an increase in older generations, causing fear that there would be less of a younger population to take over in the workforce.

“People all become seniors so there will be few workers working to produce. No country (and) no economy can sustain. They need more labor,” Li said.

Zihao Zhang, a senior aeronautics major from Chengdu, was born during the one-child policy.

“I don’t think (the child ban) was bad,” Zhang said. “My parents had the time to take care of me when I was young.”

Due to the high costs of living in China and small number of resources, Zhang supports the idea of a birth limit of two children.

“I think it’s better for (a) child to have a partner,” Zhang said.

Mengting (Doreen) Yuan, a junior fashion merchandising and marketing double major, was also born during the one-child policy.

“If I had a brother, what would happen (is) the financial and human resources in my family would go to (him),” Yuan said.

Due to China’s historically male-dominated culture, a male child is more preferred.

“As a country in general, I feel like (the birth ban) violates human rights,” Yuan said.

Li, who was born before the child ban was introduced, disagrees with the ban wholeheartedly.

“That’s an encroachment of people’s basic human rights − man or woman. You could achieve this goal (of) educating people by providing incentives to achieve the same goal, but not by force (or) by law,” Li said. “The government basically blamed the economic problems they created on ordinary people (who had) too many kids.”

If the Chinese government does choose to relax the two-child limit, it will be revised in a new draft reform to the country’s Civil Code, which will not be completed until 2020.

Danielle Day is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected].